[This is my column in the April 9 issue of The Commercial Review.]
I had no intention of watching the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game on Monday.
It was Opening Day in Major League Baseball, and I no longer had a vested interest in the tournament’s final game.
Michigan State was knocked out of the tourney and Kentucky lost to Wisconsin. The two storylines I was following had come to a close.
But as I perused Twitter that evening, I saw the commentary of how good the game was becoming. It was a slugfest between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Duke Blue Devils.
So I flipped it on.
I almost wish I wouldn’t have started watching. All it did was fuel the rage I have toward the replay systems in college and professional sports.
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig put up a layup that missed. As the basketball came down, he fought with Duke freshman Justise Winslow for possession. The ball landed out of bounds, and officials signaled it hit off Koenig, giving the eventual national champion Blue Devils possession.
Per NCAA rules, in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime, officials can go to the monitor to review out of bounds plays and shot clock violations.
The officials did the right thing in reviewing the play.
Video clearly showed the ball went off Winslow’s fingertips, therefore it should have been Wisconsin’s basketball trailing by five. However, after two minutes of deliberating, the original ruling was upheld.
On the ensuing possession, Duke sophomore Tyus Jones, who was later named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, drained a 3-pointer to give the Blue Devils a critical eight point lead.
The call put momentum back in favor of the polarizing Blue Devils.
To make matters worse for Badger fans, NCAA head of officiating John Adams — who was in attendance Monday night in Indianapolis — made a stunning admission Tuesday while explaining the call on Sirius XM radio.
“All four of our officials were involved in the review,” he said. “We never saw, on our monitor, what everybody saw at home, if you can believe that.”
How is it possible that those tasked with overseeing the most watched and most important basketball game of the college season were not able to view the close-up the rest of the country got to see?
Turns out, Adams said he eventually saw the footage but not until after the officials returned to the court.
“I saw it after they had left the monitor, and actually thought about it, is it in my prerogative to get up, run over to the table, buzz the buzzer and tell them to come back and look?” Adams said.
Yes, Mr. Adams. It is. And that’s exactly what you should have done.
“That’s how critical I thought the play was and concluded that this is a job for the guys on the floor,” he added. “I’ve never done it before. Why would I do it tonight and perhaps change the balance of the game?”
How about because you’re the head of officiating and the national championship is on the line. Get the call correct.
His desire not to “change the balance of the game” by keeping his discovery to himself, in fact, changed the balance of the game. What if Wisconsin got the ball, hit a 3-pointer to get within two and rode momentum to a national title?
This is 2015, and there are still mistakes being made with officiating in collegiate and professional sports.
There are cameras everywhere. Nearly everything gets noticed, often times by more than on camera.
So it doesn’t make sense as to why the correct calls are not made, especially after plays are reviewed.
But that brings me to my next gripe.
Why, in sports, are some things allowed to be reviewed and others not?
Like in baseball, for example, home runs, batted balls that are fair or foul, force plays or tags, catches in the outfield and base running plays — such as if a runner scores before the third out is made — all can be reviewed.
All of this comes in the wake of former Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Gallaraga, who lost a perfect game in the ninth inning by a blown call from umpire Jim Joyce in 2010. Had replay been implemented, it would have been the 21st perfect game in MLB history. (There have been three thrown since then.)
But in baseball, the most basic, and most often occurrence — balls and strikes — cannot be reviewed.
Why? A pitch is either a strike, or it isn’t. No judgment should be involved.
In the NFL, there are a number of things that cannot be reviewed: the status of the clock, the proper down, if there was a penalty, a runner being ruled down by defensive contact or forward progress (not involving a first down or the goal line).
The recovery of a fumble also cannot be reviewed in certain circumstances, a flaw in the system made famous by San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman in the 2014 NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks. Bowman recovered a fumble and should have been ruled down by contact. But he was hit awkwardly, tearing ligaments in his knee, so he let go of the ball, which led to Seattle recovering. The Seahawks went on to win the game and the Super Bowl two weeks later.
A field goal or extra point that goes above either upright is also not allowed to be reviewed. Neither is an inadvertent whistle.
Some of these instances may be very important to the outcome of a game, as were the case with the Bowman fumble and the out of bounds play with Duke and Wisconsin on Monday.
Sure, reviewing every little detail to get it correct may lengthen sporting events that some may already consider too long.
But in an age when technology is at its most advanced and put in place to give fans the best experience possible, it is unacceptable that mistakes continue to be made at some of sports’ most important moments.