Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Soccer: the final bastion that technology hasn't touched

It was first reported two months ago that Major League Baseball was moving to allow instant replay for in-game use - but for limited purpose of determing home runs. Reportedly, this will be the only circumstance in which the technology, which espn.com first reported on back in May, will be used. On Thursday, months of speculation will cease when the use of intsant replay will be made flesh.

I love baseball. I love soccer. But, as baseball concedes itself to modern technology (which, I do not hate - I love the idea of iPods, Blackberries, and the VTEC engine under my hood), I can't help but absolutely reject the slippery slope that the limited use of intsant replay will become. Which is why I'm totally against it. Within the next ten years, the its utilization will become increasingly liberal, just as it has in American football and basketball. Believe me: it's home runs today, out-or-safe calls tomorrow, and balls and strikes next week. It's gonna get progressively ugly.

Which brings me to my point: for all that's wrong with soccer, from multi-million euro transfer fees to football lines on pitches, the one thing it's gotten right is the shunning of any form of instant reviews. Maybe it's because the free-flowing nature of the game just will never correspond well to it. Or maybe it just has to do with a bunch of white-collar FIFA guys struggling to grasp the concept of a cellular phone. I don't know. Whatever it is, thank God for it.

Now, there has been discussions of the so-called "soccer ball chip", which would allow for a form of goal-line technology that would validate or nullify a controversial goal or non-goal. In theory, the instant a ball crosses the line, a supersensitive GPS system would register the trespass and register the goal by flashing a luminous device. Kinda like in hockey with the goal judge, just deadly accurate. So all legitimate goals will be recognized, and all mythical goals will be categorically disproven like the rotten bastards that they are. In theory, it's a fine idea. But I cannot help but think what floodgates will be smashed open after that technology is employed. What's next? Microchips inserted into the players' boots to define whether an attacker is offside? There comes a point where it's too late to revert back, as technology will continue to encroach upon the imperfect.

I know the counterargument: shouldn't all calls be perfect?

No. There is a degree of human error involved in all things related to human beings. It's life. Life isn't perfect. So why should sports be perfect? Soccer is, perhaps, the greatest sports metaphor for life, and is likely the primary reason why so many people love it. Think about it. Chronologically, the victories are often days or weeks in between (unless you're a ManU, Real Madrid or Juventus fan and are accustomed to multiple victory weeks with Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup, Cup Winner's Cup, Cup Cup's CUP, etc. In that case, you have shielded yourself from reality. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.), and there are more than enough rainy, goalless draws for us to simply wallow in while we wait for the next triumph. So why do calls or decisions need to be perfect? Who are we, as very imperfect beings, to demand perfection, a standard to which we can never achieve?

So, while baseball - pure baseball - will have a piece of its soul ripped out from its use of instant replay, I can't help but applaud FIFA (yes, I just said something pleasant about FIFA) for keeping video monitors and microchips in the office and off the pitch.

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