How would John McEnroe be remembered if the video umpiring technology we now see in sport was around in his day? The master of the umpiring dummy spit would have no answer to computer systems like Hawk-Eye or Cyclops, which have greatly reduced the responsibility on tennis officials.
Tennis, of course, is not alone in the introduction of video technology, as a host of sports wage war on bad calls. But while a generation of iPhone, Facebook and Google users will probably agree technology continues to improve our lives, are we really better or worse off with the video umpire in our chosen sport?
Hawk-Eye has allowed for “challenges” in tennis and cricket that have become game-changers, while television match officials (TMOs) in rugby union and rugby league mean even the slightest hint of doubt over whether a try was scored sees decisions sent upstairs.
For a long time, only soccer resisted the introduction of video technology. However, the calls every time a contentious goal-line moment, dodgy penalty or offside occurred resulted in FIFA finally capitulating on the use of goal-line technology in July 2012.
The ultimate aim of all this is to reduce the frequency of bad decisions, and you can understand why – one bad call in this professional era can cost millions of dollars to a player or team. Video technology helps to stamp out these refereeing blunders that can have such damaging effects.
Yes, human error is natural, but it doesn’t mean we should accept it when there’s a better option available.
There are always sceptics though, and they question the accuracy of Hawk-Eye and deceiving camera angles, while others say it slows down games too much and that challenges can be used tactically by competitors to halt momentum or buy time. The biggest fear though, is that the decreased human element is stealing away some of sport’s soul and reducing the theatre of it all.
Soccer purists argue that it disrupts the flow of the “beautiful game”. Others maintain that it undermines the authority of the referee on the field.
Coach of Super Rugby powerhouse the Crusaders, Todd Blackadder believes referees are too quick to use the TMO, and need to use their gut more instead of always taking the easy option. They were particularly interesting comments off the back of two particularly contentious TMO decisions that went in favour of the Crusaders in the final rounds of this year’s Super 15 competition.
Maybe Mr McEnroe would have been far happier had video technology been available in his heyday, but then we never would have been able to see those infamous dummy spits, such as the one below. Question is…would it have been as fun to watch?