ON THE SIDELINES: I’m ok with imperfections in officiating

by Jan 31, 2018SPORTS di-ne-lv-di-yi0 comments





There is hardly a game that goes by that I don’t take a photo of a play that would overturn an official’s call.  No kidding, it happens just about every game.

Someone gets called for a foul when I have photographic evidence that they touched only the ball.  Someone gets called out of bounds when I have photographic evidence that they were not.  Someone clearly holds in a football game, their hand just full of outstretched jersey, and no call.  It goes on and on.

To me, that’s a part of the game.  Like I’ve written before, officials are not perfect.  They make mistakes all the time – hopefully not on purpose, but they make mistakes just like all of us.  High school officials, in my opinion, have it the roughest.  They get one look at each play.  There’s no instant replay to fall back on.  It’s just that one glance, that one moment, and it’s gone.  Well, they could ask to see my photos, but that goes against the rules set forth by the National Federation of State High School Associations which doesn’t allow instant replay usage.

A few weeks ago, the NFSHSA held a meeting and approved a pilot program in New Jersey for instant replay usage for high school football games this upcoming season.  The exact details haven’t been worked out there yet, but they’re going to give it a go this fall.

To me, that could be very cumbersome for a high school sports program.  Most programs are already under-staffed or under-funded, many times both, and adding instant replay to the fray just adds to the costs associated with hosting a game as well as finding people to run the equipment.

It’s different at the NFL or NCAA level where the dollar amounts involved in sports are vastly different.  The National Football League first started instant replay way back in 1986 in a limited capacity, and they adopted the current system in 1999.  The NCAA followed suit in 2006 with some of the major conferences SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and others adopting it on their own a year earlier.

In July 2016, Coach & Athletic Director magazine asked its readers the following question: Should replay reviews/coaches challenges be implemented at the high school level?

The result was pretty clear where most at the high school level fall in the debate with 85.7 percent of the respondents saying “no”, 7.1 percent saying “yes”, and the rest stating “not sure”.   The magazine did not state how many responded to the poll.

Earlier this year, Georgia State Rep. Patty Bentley (D-Butler) introduced State House Bill 667 that, if passed, would require instant replay at high school football playoff games in the state.  That bill comes on the heels of the 2017 Class AAA championship game which involved a controversial call that went against Peach County – part of Rep. Bentley’s district.  Even if passed, Georgia High School Association would still need approval from the NFSHSA.

My main concern with all of this is funding.  I just don’t see some of the smaller schools being able to afford the equipment and manpower necessary to run effective instant replays.  Another concern is time…do we want high school games to drag out as long as some college and NFL games?  Also, there is the concern of equipment malfunctioning or not working as well as it does in larger venues.  As a photographer, I can attest that some of the stadiums we shoot in are dark, dark, dark in some places – mainly near the end zones where controversial plays mean the most.  Would they be able to get “indisputable” video evidence?

Overall, I think high school officials do a good job.  It’s an incredibly hard job.  They most definitely miss calls. I know that for a fact…I see it just about every single game.  But, maybe the imperfection of the game makes it special.

Spanish surrealist painted Salvador Dali once said, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”