So, yesterday afternoon, I watched the Champions League Final because, well, what football fan doesn’t? It was a pretty drab game to be fair — though that might have more to do with my disdain for almost everything about Real Madrid than an actual objective view of the game, but whatever.
Anyway, Los Blancos went ahead a quarter of an hour into the match yesterday when Sergio Ramos — colossal tool, though that could easily be said about no less than half of Real’s preferred XI — got the final touch to bundle home a goal off a free kick move.
The only issue? Ramos was just a little bit offside.
Football is a funny sport, in that any one individual play probably means more than in any other sport. If an official misses an offside call, it could potentially mean a whole lot of difference, and it could well be tough to point to "other opportunities" to put some space between one side and the other. Had the linesman flagged Ramos’ involvement in the goal instead of letting it go, yesterday’s Champions League Final goes completely differently.
That’s unlike, say, American football, where even one-off games provide enough plays that one call isn’t often a difference, and even more with baseball, basketball or hockey, where the playoffs (our cup finals) are decided by best-of-5 or best-of-7 series where you get a lot of individual data points. So, despite the fact that we have replay, it’s not as huge of a deal when an official gets something wrong.
And I get the cultural nature of what’s fundamentally different about football — and it’s something that really appeals to me. When you show up to a football match, you know that within two hours, the 90 minutes are up. It flows, and that’s great, and any discussion about instant replay in the sport needs to take that into consideration.
But when we’re talking about Champions League finals, shouldn’t the priority be on getting a call right above anything else?
I mean hell, when a referee takes 45 seconds to walk over and talk to his assistant referee before making a penalty decision, we praise him for "taking his time to get the call right." Why would it be any different to have the two of them chatting with a "replay official" who can explain whether or not there was contact on a penalty or whether or not a player was involved from an offsides position?
There are a lot of judgement calls in this sport, and I’d never want to bring replay into that. Keep it for the cut-and-dry things, and we’ll be good to go. And technological advances in the sport, especially goal-line technology, have been welcomed with open arms. If we have a GLT-like system to help us with offside calls, how would the game be worsened?
I don’t want to lose a key part of what makes this game beautiful — but I also hate seeing matches ruined by referees and assistant referees trying to do a job that, quite frankly, humans just can’t do at a high enough success rate.