If you are a member of the older generation like me, you recall that in professional sports there was a time when the umpire, referee, judge of any sport was the final authority. The umpire called the balls and strikes, the referee said it was a fumble or not. The linesman determined if a tennis ball was in or out. Games and matches were determined by the call. Once in a while, there was a dispute between the combatants as to the legitimacy of an official’s call. Many of the calls were insignificant because they did not determine the outcome of the game. However, there were those moments when the game was on the line and the call one way or the other determined the winner or loser. When the call was made there was an uproar by the team or individual that lost snd jubilation for the winner. Feelings were hurt, anger even emerged. For one side it was just not fair. No-one should have to lose because of an error in judgement. Fairness trumps everything. It is the American way.
In 1963 Instant Replay was introduced to the sports world. It changed the idea of fairness. The legitimacy of a call could be challenged and the truth would be known and Fairness, the absolute measure would be final. From 1963 technology advanced and the professional sports world moved to make it a integral part of the contests. The NFL was the first in 1986, followed by the NHL in 1991, the NBA in 2002, and Wimbledon in 2006.
Instant replay even made its way into golf. Instant replay doesn’t just tell the story. As Tiger Woods knows, it can become part of the story. A phone call from a TV viewer, spurred on by instant replay, changed the course of Woods’ 2013 Masters tournament.
In the second round, Woods was forced to take a drop on the par-5 15th hole after his shot caromed off the flagstick and into the water. At his home in Florida, Champions Tour golfer David Eger rewound his DVR and noticed Woods had improperly dropped the ball about 3 feet behind his original divot.
Eger called a Masters official and Woods was eventually penalized two strokes, dropping him from three strokes out of the lead to five back. He never got back into contention.
It comes down to this. “There is not a sports official around who wants to leave a field, court or rink thinking they didn’t get it right. If you give them a tool that allows them to get it right, that’s what they want. It’s about getting it right, and the expectations are higher about getting it right than back in the old days before we had the technology.” (1)
Now we are on the goal line of an election. There is mass confusion in the country because there is a challenge as to whether the call was right. The impact is much greater than a World Series Title, or Super Bowl victory. The well being of an entire nation rests on the call.
Its about Fairness. When it appears that something is just not quite right every person wants fairness in the end despite the outcome. The team has challenged the ruling on the field. Then after further review the call is determined right or wrong. One side is disappointed and one side is thrilled. Then we go back to the game. The enduring truth is that we tried the best we could to get it right because that is the fair thing to do, the right thing to do. We have always agreed.
So what happens now with this election? There is a challenge of the call. Do we have instant replay available to review the play? Will we use the tools we have in place to make sure we get it right? It has worked rather well in our sports world. I hope we are advanced enough to apply it to a call that means a whole lot more for all of us. At the moment, it doesn’t appear that fairness matters.
1.Patrick Saunders: email@example.com or twitter.com/psaundersdp