Sidelines: How technology has changed sports

Sidelines: How technology has changed sports

Drew Friedman

Drew Friedman ‘16 and Mike Morgan ‘16

Collaborative Writers

It’s October 9, 1996: Yankees vs. Orioles. It’s the bottom of the eighth, when a rookie shortstop with the number two stitched on his back stepped to the plate. A fastball thrown high was cracked towards right field. The fielder in Orioles orange positioned himself, ready to make the catch. As the fielder raised his arm to make the casual catch against the warning track, a 12-year old Yankee fan, Jeffrey Maier, stuck his glove out, deflected the ball into the crowd for a homerun. The Yankees went on to win the series 4-1, and eventually the World Series. That Derek Jeter home run went down as the “Jeffrey Maier play” and could have gone either way. What if that call was reversed? What if the umpires took it to replay? Nowadays, all sports have implemented technology that allows us to see the hairs on the players knuckles and the exact millisecond the game winning shot was released from the players hand. This technology definitely has improved the way any game is called, but have we seen the last of the Jeffrey Maier moments? Does this improvement in technology eliminate the controversy in sports?

Mike Morgan: The advancement of technology in sports has given fans peace of mind when watching their teams. It is to the point in professional sports that fans can reasonably expect that there will not be any wrong calls that will affect the outcome of the game. I say “wrong” calls rather than “missed” calls. Missed calls will happen as long as there is a human element in officiating a game. A holding penalty can be open to judgement, as well as a shooting foul in basketball. But we will never see a receiver get two feet in bounds on a touchdown catch and be ruled incomplete virtually ever again. Even so, where should these sports draw the line? The technology is certainly there to put an end to certain issues in sports, such as disputes between balls and strikes in baseball for example. Would it be detrimental to the game if the same technology used to grade umpires on their accuracy of calling balls and strikes (QuesTec) were used to simply officiate the game?

Drew Friedman: While there is always room for improvement in sports, I think it should remain on the field. Technology definitely makes the game cleaner, catching things that wouldn’t be obvious to the human eye. But then again, sports were able to succeed without this new and improved technology for decades, so why implement it now? Controversy is part of sports, and without it, we wouldn’t be able to look back on those what-if moments and imagine if they were called in the opposite manner.

Mike Morgan: The rationale for implementing this technology now, perhaps to the extreme, is that if certain technology is available to spectators, why shouldn’t it be available to those officiating the game? If any old fan sitting at home can see that a called strike three was really out of the strike zone that networks electronically put on screen, then doesn’t it make sense to give the umpires access to such technology? Years ago this technology did not exist for anybody. The inconsistency between who has access to the technology does not make sense. And while controversy is without question a vital part of the sports world, the controversy should fall on the players rather than the officials.

Drew Friedman: You are certainly right. It is too late to not implement the technology into the games themselves, but they truly should have never implemented the technology in the first place. Controversy is important for sports, but unfortunately it is always stumped by sports associations trying to cover themselves from the media, as well the influx of income that comes with integrating such technology. While I applaud sports for trying to be progressive, there are some things that need to remain constant throughout time. Controversy is definitely on the top of the list, and should remain there. But with the current progression of sports, it won’t be for long.

Conclusion: The debate on the necessary extent of technology in sports is one that will never cease to exist. As time goes on, we may see a further push to make sure all calls are made accurately. Most of the technology is already available, but it will likely require some kind of urgent issue to take place for this technology to be implemented anytime soon. In the end, what is most important is making sure these changes will make sports more enjoyable and watchable for everyone. Time will tell if these changes will have these impacts.