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    Ref's decision is final...sometimes

    Sep 5, 2012

    USED to be that in the old days, whatever call an umpire, linesman, judge, arbiter or referee made in a game or match was final, conclusive and resolute. Now, technology has made it so that teams and players can challenge an unfavorable call or decision and possibly get immediate redress before the game proceeds.

    I’m not 100% certain but I believe it was the National Football League in the US was at the forefront of the change, embracing the fact that as time went by, their covering networks used more and more cameras (what I read was 18 for regular season games and up to double that for the Super Bowl) which meant more review and replay angles to look at which would uphold the refs’ decision.

    So what the NFL did was put in a review official, who was part of the game’s officiating crew and gave each team the right to challenge on-field calls at the penalty of a timeout if the referee was proven to be right. Of course, if the call was wrong, the timeout was given back.

    In tennis, used to be that the only one who can correct an erring linesman was the chair umpire, who could reverse a wrong call faster than any John McEnroe tantrum. Recently, especially in the major (read: televised) events, each player at the beginning of each set was given three Hawkeye challenges in which players can ask that the call of the officials be reviewed by a machine that shows where a ball lands.

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    A few years ago while working in the PBL, then commissioner Chino Trinidad made the bold move to use replay angles as a tool to get the call right in all of the league’s televised games. Among these were the automatic review of all three-point shots, buzzer-beaters, goal-tending calls and in the final two minutes, even out-of-bound plays that were too close to call.

    The philosophy behind all these is that leagues and tournaments have embraced the availability of new tools that can help make sure that proper decisions are arrived at and that less mistakes are made, especially when the stakes are so high – like Grand Slam events and championships.

    But then again there are holdouts – baseball is one (a plate umpire can go to the first or third base umpire to check if a bat had indeed gone around for a possible strike call but that’s all) but as far as replays are concerned, they’re a no-no for making calls. If a ball is hit on fair or foul territory, or whether a ball had indeed cleared the fence or not, it’s the umpire’s call to make and if he blows it, he answers to his superiors and faces sanctions – but the call stays.

    Or in boxing, such as the case when Manny Pacquiao lost via inept judging to Timothy Bradley during his last fight, even though nearly every armchair judge and expert scored it as a win for the Pacman, the sanctioning boxing association and the sports’ state commission could not do anything about it. It was the wrong decision, but Bradley keeps the belt anyway, and the worst thing that would happen to the judges is for them to no longer be hired by the WBO or given the green light to work a match by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

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    Why do I suddenly mention referees’ decisions? Over the weekend, controversy erupted in the UAAP after NU filed a protest claiming that the game-winning basket made by FEU’s RR Garcia during their second-round meeting was not made in time. Buzzer-beater decision – although officials are trained to go through the process – consulting the timer and if a video replay review is allowed, to look at that.

    Now I’m sure that in all the amount of time it took to affirm the made basket, the referees were checking the replays available with coach Ato Badolato, who is currently the league’s commissioner. And if Badolato already gave his blessings for the referee to count the basket, how can NU hope to get redress of their plight from the same person?

    Anyway, back to the NCAA – just when everyone (including myself) was starting to look at the Heavy Bombers as a legit contender and waiting for UPHSD to blow up, the Altas took the measure of JRU in Monday’s game, tied their victim for third and coupled with San Sebastian’s win, gave the Stags some breathing room for the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.

    Also saddened by UPHSD’s win? Letran and Mapua, the teams immediately below them in the standings who were hoping the Bombers could help them by beating Aric del Rosario’s boys. But with Jett-sanity Jett Vidal playing the way he has (career-high 32 points and trending on Twitter), it was not meant to be.

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