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Posted: April 19, 2011 5:56 p.m.

No call for bad calls in sports

How many times have you heard a coach address a question in a press conference about a blown call that cost his or her team dearly by simply stating, 'it's part of the game'? It's what coaches say to avoid getting fined or at the very least reprimanded. It doesn't have to be that way. Not with the technology available to us.

If we could use video cameras and sensors over humans to referee games, just think of how accurately calls could be. Just think about it. You could install sensors on the plate that display the placement of the ball. Television networks already do it. Before you start giving me your best Terminator/SkyNet argument against machines over humans, consider all the trouble we have with human error.

No matter what level of sports being played, officials make bad or flat out wrong calls all the time. Watch a baseball game on Fox sometime and check out the strike zone display. In professional and college sports, those errors are often broadcast to viewers at home over and over again or showed on Jumbotrons in stadiums and arenas. Look, umpires and referees are going to make wrong calls. They can't help it because they're human. I understand that. If you or I were on a field or court, we'd make bad calls too. It's inevitable. The problem is, more often that not, the human ego doesn't allow us to reverse those bad calls even when the opportunity presents itself. That's where the system is flawed.

If every referee or umpire would take a second to get a call right, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The problem is, most either don't want to give the perception that they are capable of making a mistake or are too embarrassed to admit them. Really, though, I've yet to understand how getting a call right is in any way embarrassing. Where things get really touchy is when an official goads a coach into an ejection. More on that in a minute.

Professional and college sports rely on video replay more than ever and I applaud the various governing bodies of these sports for doing as much. Video replays help get the call right. Here's a perfect example. The other day Kevin Na took a 16 on a hole at the PGA tournament in San Antonio, TX. Nobody, not even Na, really knew how many strokes he took because he hacked at the ball so many times, frankly even he lost count. So the PGA, upon Na's insistence, used video replays to count the strokes. It turns out they found two strokes on video they never would have if they went of what Na wrote down (by his own recollection). Video can also serve to hold officials accountable for their actions to prevent what happened in Monday's Alcovy-Ola game.

During Monday's game, the home plate umpire ejected Tigers coach Casey Bates after he perceived Bates had ordered pitcher Darius Hill to throw behind a batter. Read the story below for the details. The umpire said Bates told him he was going to do it so that's why he threw him out. But really, the reason he threw Bates out may have stemmed from a few tough calls on balls and strikes and may have even been a carry over from previous games.

If the umpire really knew Bates was going to issue such a command to Hill, who by the way was also ejected, why didn't he say anything beforehand? Don't you think it would have been prudent to warn Bates that if his pitcher did intentionally throw a wild pitch (which wasn't even close to hitting the batter), he'd throw him out? That way he would have given both Bates and Hill the opportunity to consider the action and stay in the game (and subsequent two games). Not to mention, if it's really about player safety after all, why would an umpire let a coach and player do that? Maybe he wanted to throw Bates out the whole time. Perhaps his ego had been bruised at some point and he wanted retribution. Revenge. The weakest of all human temptations.

We can't use replay in high school sports. I doubt there'll ever be a day when we do. It's just not feasible. But we can hold the officials to a higher standard than we do now. Thanks to tons of video both from networks and user-generated stuff on the Web, officials in the pros and college are being held accountable. Those governing bodies also evaluate their officials. It helps. That's not the case with the Georgia High School Association. The GHSA will tell you they evaluate their officials. But it doesn't do any good. I still see the same bad officials at games each new sports season.

What happens to a professional athlete who doesn't perform? They are replaced. Their held accountable and in the end, they either make it or they're out of work. The same should hold true to the men and women who administer the rules these athletes play by. Most of these high school officials work more than one sport which in itself can be detrimental. How good can anyone possibly be if they are focused on so many different things? Do you see Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski coaching softball during the spring or running the defense for the football team in the fall?

There are plenty of good officials throughout the state that make bad calls. The best ones admit when they goof up and try to fix their errors so they don't cost a team too much. There are also plenty of officials who do it strictly for the money. When has that ever been a good idea?

If we are going to hold athletes accountable, we also need to keep those who enforce the rules in check. If I slander someone or misreport a fact intentionally in our paper, I'd get fired. It's also why the education system in the state is so bad. Hold the kids and parents accountable and you'll fix education. It only makes sense. And sadly because it makes sense is why it probably won't ever happen.

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