Call It Like You See It: How The NBA Refs Get It Right


December 18, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; NFL referees Bill Kennedy (55) and Derek Richardson (left) review a play using instant replay on the sidelines during the second half between the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 112-106. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

One week ago today, I posted a column on the senselessness of Major League Baseball’s instant replay policies after umpire Angel Hernandez botched a home run call in a game between the Oakland Athletics and the Cleveland Indians.

The point in doing so was not to protest the ruling on behalf of all A’s fans, or to admonish Hernandez for his inability to make the correct call; the goal was to shed light on a flawed system of review and to take a look at how other leagues handle similar situations.

One thing about criticizing officials: If you’re going to criticize them when they err, you should be quick to point out when they do their jobs well.  This obviously is not the case in today’s reactionary culture, and most people would respond by saying that you shouldn’t heap praise on someone for simply doing their job.

I would rebut this by saying that it is incredibly difficult to be an official in any professional sport, and while I’m certainly not saying we should be giving them medals for their better performances, I am saying that we should be aware of our predisposition to only talk about officials when they commit an egregious error.

With that in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that we’re nearly four weeks into the NBA playoffs, and not once have we had an incident that causes an explosive reaction against the refs.  I can’t even recall one call that was even close to being controversial, and much of that can be attributed to the league’s use of replay.

While the argument can be made that instant replay disrupts the flow of the game (news flash: it does), if the alternative is living with incorrect calls, I’ll take a two-minute delay in the name of getting it right.  I’ll even vouch for these guys when they go to the tape to try to figure out if they need to rule a foul as flagrant, because you know what that tells me?  They’re not afraid to question their initial rulings, their egos aren’t preventing them from admitting they made a mistake, and they’re embracing everything that can aid in the process of making the correct call.

I don’t want to make this any more long-winded than it needs to be, but I will add that the NBA’s use of video replay stands in stark contrast to what is going on in Major League Baseball, and Bud Selig could learn a lot from David Stern on the topic of instant replay and the emphasis on getting a call right by any means necessary.

Additionally, let’s give credit where credit is due when officials do their job well, and just remember when you’re waiting for a game to resume because the refs are looking at a replay, it could be a whole lot worse.