As Danny Crawford Arrives, Human Officials Should Depart

Was watching Rangers-Yankees Sunday night on ESPN and was struck by something. As our TV pictures have been more clear via HD, our screens have gotten more cluttered with an avalanche of information.

On the screen at one time were graphics for the network, balls, strikes, outs, runners on base, inning, pitch count per inning, score and--of course--the constant scroll of info at the bottom of the screen with scores and information from every sport. It was all too much ... and then ...

ESPN produced a transparent, grayish-virtual- strike-zone box over the plate. I'm probably in the minority on this one, but I loved it.

As I read today that the NBA is admitting a referee mistake in Game 1 of Nuggets-Thunder and as Mavs fans brace for the return of dark cloud Danny Crawford tonight, I say anything -- even a small step -- that moves toward eliminating the human element of officiating is a good thing.

For anyone that watched the 2006 NBA Finals, the theory feels real that officials have bias against a certain team. Coincidence or not, the Mavs are 2-16 in the last 18 playoff games officiated by Crawford. And with his arrival at AAC timed with Blazers coach Nate McMillan being fined $35,000 for his post-Game 1 criticism of the foul discrepancy -- uh-oh.

Meanwhile, the NBA confirms what we all saw at the end of Game 1 in Oklahoma City Sunday night. Thunder center Kendrick Perkins went through the net and tipped in a Russell Westbrook shot that was clearly on the rim. It should have been a goal-tending violation. Instead, the allowed basket gave OKC a one-point lead with one minute remaining in what would be a four-point win.

Perkins -- and a lot of folks -- has said that officiating errors are part of the game. But when I see tennis using computers to call lines and basketball checking replays for crucial plays and baseball using virtual strike zones, I stand and applaud.

Clutter or not, we're clearly headed in the right direction.


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