When Will We Get Refbots?
What a great weekend of basketball! Three great games that were in doubt throughout. All is great, right? Heck no!
First, Wichita State remains peeved that the referees called that jump ball with less than 10 seconds to go. All across the web people were perplexed, including this seemingly-neutral publication, the Business Insider Journal. Well, what does a business publication know about sports? True, only the those other than the most diehard of Louisville fans had to think… “hmmm, that was a bit quick.” Second, Syracuse fans remain utterly-perturbed with the series of calls that led to starting guards Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche fouling out, with the most-severe ire addressed to the latter. Of course, the talking heads commenting after the game noted that the call was blown. Third, regardless of who you were rooting for, the block called against Trey Burke was simply absurd. The best anyone can do is argue that it did not “cost” Michigan the game. Or “tarnish” what was a great basketball game.
Now, the Confidential is going to say this slowly. And in bold. Wichita State, Syracuse, and Michigan have nothing to complain about. Play as if you are going to have a few bad calls go against you. Assume it. That first half turnover cost you as much as that late game blown call. Those missed free throws. That ill advised shot. You lost.
But let’s not pretend that the officiating is not a problem. We have inconsistencies within games now. It used to be that “they are calling a tight game” meant something. Now you get games where they call nothing for 30 minutes and get foul happy down the stretch. And, of course, vice-versa. Nobody can dispute that charges are called too often now. We still see fouls called on the expectation that there would be contact, rather than the reality. And so on.
And it’s not just basketball. Did you see this call in baseball the other night? Wow.
This is not to say that the referees aren’t doing the best job that they can. They work hard, perhaps too hard. Some are out-of-shape, but most are fit enough to keep up with the athletes. We have had few scandals to question integrity. The best officials seem to be the ones that everybody hates. That means something–usually the toughness to make a call that the 5 to 110 thousand people in the building might not like.
But is this the best that sports can do? Of course not. We can do better than people. They are called robots. Let’s call them refbots.
Sure, refbots have not been invented yet. To our knowledge. But we have computers that can win at Jeopardy. We have had line calls made automatically in tennis for years. Isn’t this the solution? Take it out of the hands of flawed humans, and put it into a programmable robot. The program can be changed to reflect rule changes. You can have many robots calling a basketball game–all working various angles together to ensure that the right call is made. Instead of wondering whether one of the three guys will get there, technology will make sure someone is in position. In fact, isn’t it more surprising we do not have this technology yet??? Even so, the technology has to be inevitable.
What do you think? Assuming we could design robots to call games with far more accuracy and consistency, would you want that? Or do you prefer the human error component?