Enough with video review

Duncan Miller, Staff Reporter

graphic of man with headphones
Lasso writer Duncan Miller shares his take on video review in sports. (Graphic by Matthew Lin)

All sports need video review, right? If there’s a crucial call in a game, we have to be sure the call that was made was the right one. The outcome of a game has to be fair. Referees need to take their time, look at a screen in the middle of a game, and review the call. Right? No! No more reviews! I want them all gone.

While watching the Premier League, I was treated to a rare viewing experience: at halftime, one of the British analysts was furious (for reference, furious for a British analyst means mildly aggrieved for an American analyst) about a penalty call in the middle of a game. Why? Because the referee stopped the game, looked at the monitor to check for a handball, and then changed the call. And … got the call wrong. This is a pattern becoming more and more prevalent in soccer. Referees use video review to change calls, and usually hand out penalty kicks, but get the call wrong all the time. So teams win 1-0 because the ball brushed off someone’s pinky finger in the 81st minute, and because they tripped over an opponent’s shoelace just before time expired. 

As George Mason soccer player Matthew Hellert put it, “I just think that virtual review takes away the part of the game of letting the game play, and [it changes] how the refs call the game. It also slows down the game so much with so many reviews and how long it takes- one of my favorite things about soccer is how there are no stops, and [the game] is nonstop until halftime.” So not only does video review change the result, it messes with the flow of the game.

Football, while having a slightly more functional system, has similar issues. After an absolute debacle in the 2019 NFC Championship game, where a clear pass interference call was missed on a crucial play, the NFL decided to let teams challenge pass interference … only to cancel this challenge a year later, because the rule was so unclear. Additionally, every touchdown or turnover needs to be reviewed, even if the touchdown, fumble, or interception was obvious. But why? To waste time before a 4-minute commercial?

And yet, to be fair, I actually do think video review works best in football, maybe since there’s such a stop-and-start feel to the game. George Mason football player Griffin Harrison saw both sides of the argument.

“I think it’s important to review plays to ensure the refs have made the correct ruling, since the entire balance of the game can shift in [a] matter of one or two plays,” Harrison said. “At the same time, I can see how people think they overdo it a bit. [It] completely kills momentum for both teams and it slowed down a game that had already gone on for super long. But I do think that getting the call right outweighs slowing the game down here and there.”

Good point. We have a video review to get the call right, and it does work better in football. But a sport where there should be no debate is basketball. Video review is so appallingly frustrating in the NBA, that certain announcers (ahem, Jeff Van Gundy) blister the officials almost every time they go to the monitor. But that is what the officials are, technically, supposed to do. Only go with the letter of the law, and not the intent! That’s how Playoff games end with Jimmy Butler and Khris Middleton each shooting free throws after consecutive shooting fouls (and extensive reviews), or how the Lakers lose a Christmas game because the ball brushed off Lebron James’ fingernail. 

The rules tell the officials to stop the game and check for the smallest possible infractions … which ruins the flow of the game, and sometimes ruins the correct ruling. Referees can only check who the ball went off of, even if the offensive player got hacked. But the rules say they can’t call a foul through review, so the wrong team gets the ball!

Anyway, here’s what I propose, and I’ll deviate a little from my statement in the first paragraph. We can keep video review for football as long as we review the right aspects of the game- it’s a sport full of stops and starts, so throwing reviews in doesn’t mess up the rhythm quite as much. But for the rest of the sports? Get rid of it! I’ll take a few missed calls that weren’t reviewed over disruptions of the game … and more missed calls masquerading as correct calls. Basketball, soccer, and many other sports were just fine without video review. Fans could get mad, talk about how the referees cheated their teams, and then move on. The debates and outrage are part of what makes sports fun! So let fans yell, and take the screens away!