New NCAA Rule Allows Video Replay: All The World’s A Stage

On Page 5 of the new 2016/2017 NCAA rulebook, one finds a summary of the rule changes.  What caught my eye was this line:

5.7  Permits video review on three specific situations

Before I outline how this new specific rule is misguided, I find the need to share the reasoning behind my aversion to video replay.  In many conversations with others on the topic, I have come to realize that I hold a minority opinion and that most people have become convinced that video replay is a virtuous and noble endeavor.

Many moons ago when I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed undergrad involved in scientific pursuits at UCSB, I groaned at the prospect of fulfilling my Arts GE requirement.  My roommate was in the same unfortunate boat, so I was thrilled when he came to me with an epiphany: “Let’s take Appreciation of Theater and just get stoned before we go see the plays!”. Sold!  So we used some of the money we had earmarked for Natty Light and diverted a portion of those funds toward the tickets we were required to purchase to attend 5 plays (we ducked out of the Shakespeare play during intermission as the olde English babble was really harshing our buzz).  But what I most remember from that class was a discussion our TA led in section.  She started by asserting that theatrical production relied on the interaction between the actors on stage and the audience.  Huh?  Sure, she explained, the actors react to feedback from the audience like laughter, applause, cheering, gasping, jeering, etc.  Maybe, I thought, but it’s all scripted, so how could audience reaction possibly affect what occurred on stage?  As though she heard my skeptical thoughts, she took it a step further and asserted that sports were a form of theater.  I had heard enough from this liberal arts grad student, and it was nigh that someone step in and put a stop this nonsense!  I hit her with “But sports aren’t scripted like theater.”  Ha!  Got her with that one!  But she apparently still had her mind meld working on me, and she ambushed me with, “Well, what about improv theater?”.  Hmmm, maybe she was on to something here.  She began listing the similarities between theater and sports.

In theater, one prepares for shows with rehearsals.  In sports, they are called practices.

In theater, actors wear costumes to distinguish the characters.  In sports, one wears uniforms to distinguish the teams and numbers to distinguish the players.

In theater, directors coordinate the proceedings.  In sports, they are called coaches.

In improv theater, there are rules (like “yes and…”) and parameters that are enforced or judged by a moderator.  In sports, there are referees who wear their own costume (sometimes adorned with a number) and use props like flags and whistles.

In both theater and sports, it’s common to travel to other venues and play before different audiences.

In both theater and sports, players react to the approvals and disapprovals of the crowd.

In both theater and sports, there is the prospect that the players will make a mistake, and this possibility creates mutual tension for player and patron alike which is a necessary component of live theater.  At the very least, spectators expect variance from one performance to the next. Otherwise, one might opt to stay home and watch predictable Wizard of Oz on television.

This last comparison between theater players and sports players was the coup de gras that convinced me that sports should be viewed more as a theatrical production than as an imitative of war where my paramount concern was my tribe prevailing, and conversely, that my tribe not be cheated out of its just victory.  I extended this newfound insight of accepting mistakes for the sake of drama to all the players involved in the production including those refereeing the contest.  After all, if tension is necessary, and if tension is produced by the prospect of folly, and if referees are part of the production, then I must accept when they, too, make an error.

I watch sports for entertainment.  I don’t expect to witness perfection.  In fact, I expect to see the human condition on display.  What I seek is drama.  Sure, my preference is to see the presiding officials make the correct judgment, but I also recognize there will always be a gray area on certain calls that simply can not always be adjudicating with 100% objectivity through video.  Seeking perfection where perfection can’t be attained represents a fool’s errand.  Let’s say in some fantasy world perfection can be achieved, is that really what we desire?  If so, then allow me to erase from your memory Maradona’s Hand of God goal.  Sorry, never happened.  Then we would have a diminished English narrative of a team that gets hard done, wallows in their misfortune (with pints of ale), but always comes back begging for more with their characteristic stiff upper lip and simultaneous optimism/pessimism.  Their disallowed goal versus Germany at the 2010 World Cup reinforced England’s officiating woes.  Then again, perhaps the soccer gods giveth and the soccer gods taketh away, and they givethed to England in the 1966 World Cup versus Germany.  Coincidentally, the English culture also frowns upon diving, so when the Portugese and Italian diving teams arrive at tournaments, their participation provides a cultural tension between societies that support (or at least condone) diving and societies that abhor its practice.  It is the referee who must decide if a player dives, and the uncertainty of how the referee will make those split second decisions contributes to the tension and thus the drama, and we need an imperfect referee to ensure that emotionally invested spectators can maximize a riveting experience through unease and incertitude.  Again, while I prefer referees make the right call (or certainly avoid making the obvious wrong call), I recognize the future storylines, the grievances, the suffering, and even the societal/cultural impacts that are created when one has the sense of being wronged, especially when that same indignation is felt by an entire tribe.  Rivalries are born and nurtured by these feelings of collective indignation.  I really dislike Maradona, with a passion, and in part because of that goal and how he arrogantly named it as the Hand of God.  However, I have an appreciation for the character he plays, and what is more compelling in a drama than a good villain who got away with something?

One attribute that is unique to humans is hubris.  Invading nations in the Middle East with the notion of bringing peace and democracy is hubris.  Believing that one can enact prohibition on alcohol is hubristic.  And certainly declaring a War on Drugs in light of the failed 1920s Prohibition is the epitome of hubris.  So when video replay proponents come along to promise a foolproof system, I have visions of a snake oil salesman.  Of course, support for video replay peaks in the aftermath of a perceived travesty where one party feels aggrieved.  The howling mob demands “Never again!”, and the authorities quell the rebellion by assuring “something will be done!”.  Never again!  Except, in the context of a drama, aren’t tragedies the most compelling of stories?  I suspect William Shakespeare would agree with me.

But must tragic events that lead to unjust results inevitably lead to calls for change?  In modern society, the answer is usually yes.  Take the case of Bayern Leverkusen’s Stefan Kiessling and his “ghost goal”:

The video replay zealots (and the lobbying efforts of the video replay manufacturers) made this travesty of a goal their rallying cry, and later that year video replay was put to a vote by the 36 Bundesliga 1. and 2. teams.  Thankfully, that vote failed, but the barbarians are still at the gate.

Video replay technology also has the potential of creating an injustice of its own making.  For example, let’s review Ukraine’s disallowed goal versus England at the 2012 European Championship (btw, why does it seem England is always involved in these controversies?):

Video replay shows that the ball probably crossed the line, and a review likely would have granted Ukraine the goal.  A travesty could have been avoided, right?  Wrong!  Did you notice that the Ukrainian player who received the ball was clearly offside on the play?  He never should have had the opportunity to score in the first place, but a video replay would have meddled in what the soccer gods had resolved on their own.  Of course, had replay given Ukraine the goal, there would have been predictable howls to expand video to offside calls to avoid such future, albeit extremely rare, situations.  And hello, slippery slope.  In this case, instead of righting a wrong, replay would have wronged what was ultimately a right outcome… no goal.

Video replay is now encroaching on professional leagues in the US.  The USL has been testing it, and this play on August 12 represented its first official use:

Did the reversal unequivocally lead to the right call?  I don’t think so.  It looked to me like the defender gives a brief tug on the attacker’s shoulder, lets go, the attacker recovers his balance and then dives into the box.  Was it technically a foul by the last man?  Yes.  Was it also a dive by the attacker after-the-fact?  I think so.  Was interrupting the match and reversing the decision a worthwhile endeavor?  I contend it was not, but the MLS extolled its virtues.  Everything is ok in Mayberry.

Now that we’ve determined that video replay is the work of the devil, let’s have a look at the new NCAA rule.  While video replay in other sports tends to expand until all the ills are hubristicly resolved (ha!), use of replay in NCAA can only be used if both coaches agree:

The use of video review must be agreed upon by both head coaches before the start of the game.
 .

And only the referee may initiate a video replay.

During the game, video review can be initiated by the referee only.
 .
Replay may only be used in the following 3 situations:
 .
1. Determine whether a goal has been scored;
2. Identify players for disciplinary matters; and
3. Determine whether a fight occurred and identify all participants
 .
This all sounds very reasonable, right?  How could one be against this very limited use of replay?
 .
Although the rule states that only the referee may initiate video replay, this rule explanation introduces the involvement of coaches:
 .
A.R. 5.7.m.
The referee issues a yellow card to A1 at the 15th minute and a second
yellow card (and red card for a second cautionable offense) at the 30th minute.  The Team A coach complains to the referee or the AR brings to the referee’s attention that the yellow card issued at the 15th minute should have been issued to A2. May the referee use video review to determine the correct player after play has restarted?
RULING: Yes, the referee may use video review after a restart for player identification issues and to correct any errors.
 .
The fact that a coach can lobby for a video replay introduces several issues.  Number 1, a coach can manipulate the player misidentification trigger in order to gain a strategic timeout for his team (ie. rest players, kill momentum, etc) while the referee stops the match even if it’s just to discuss the possibility of a replay of something that happened over an hour ago.  Number two, the home team would realize a distinct advantage in using replay.  They have more eyeballs with a vested interest in challenging calls detrimental to their own team.  It is also the home team’s employees who are running the video equipment from a high perch and might have the unique ability to view replays of an otherwise live-only stream.  Any visiting coach who has thought this through should decline to use video replay.
 .
Rather than introducing video replay, the NCAA should concern itself with other rules that make it an anomaly in the competitive soccer world like its clock rules, substitution rules, and length of season.
 .
I am not naive about my position nor the prospect that video replay will be implemented into soccer wholesale.  Too many forces have a vested interest… video replay manufacturers, leagues/owners/advertisers who see a revenue opportunity during increased play stoppages, and mouth-breathing fans who want a perfectly officiated game but don’t understand this is unattainable and ultimately undesirable.
 .
I am left with this thought.  In the future, I may no longer be able to revel in the gaffes or controversies committed by the character in the neon  jersey wearing the timeless Adidas Team Mudials, but I can rest assured that the hubris of humans to attempt to design a foolproof apparatus into an improvised production will undoubtedly deliver its own drama and a compelling tragedy of its own making.

Akron 2 UCSB 0

I wasn’t in Akron tonight, so I had to rely on Akron’s video feed which was small with poor resolution. The picture also tended to slant several degrees which reminded me of the villain’s lair in the orginal Batman TV series.  Also, the audio and video went out of sync in the second half, so I resorted to watching with no audio.  Anyway, it made it challenging to get a great grasp on the match.

Anyway, on to the match…

No need to panic!!!  No need to panic!!!

The match ended up being decided by 4 key moments.

  1.  Failing to clear the ball after a Zip shanked his shot inside the box.  The ball sat there begging to be cleared, but instead the “clearance” came in the form of a low ball that barely escaped the box and was shot into the right side of the goal, perhaps off the post.  I would say we gifted Akron the goal except that Akron still had to complete the play with a nice finish.
  2. Akron earned what looked like a pretty soft PK (but hard to tell with the video feed) after a Zip gained the box and Mejia may have tried a swim move to get level with the attacker that was adjudged to be a foul.  The resulting PK, though, was saved by Le Roux by keeping his feet in the middle of the goal as he dove to the right.  A softer shot or a panenka would have scored but Le Roux did very well to save a mediocre PK.  Le Roux also showed some nice flighted passes to the outside back, especially to the left wing.  He has a nice touch on those balls.
  3. Espana played the ball off a Zip’s arm in the box.  The Zip commentators felt a PK should have been called as did the apoplectic Gauchos on the field.
  4. With the match still 1-1 and still in contention, Strong picked up a needless second yellow card at midfield in the 75th minute.  Before tonight, Strong had just 1 yellow card on the season.  Well, he made up for lost time tonight!  Like his first yellow of the season, the card was earned far from goal and away from danger.  I imagine his mentality goes to “Me Strong!  Me get ball!” without considering the situation.  It looks like Batista will see his first full 90 minute match on Saturday versus UCLA.

The final goal just iced the match and was a result of us being down a goal and pushing numbers forward.

Anyway, this is how we started the match with Feucht returning to last season’s role as holding mid.  Espana played with freedom to go forward.

Dream Team 4-1-4-1 football formation

Later in the half, Pando came on for Mejia while Billingsley came on for Amo.  The second half started the same way.

Overall, I was pleased by the work rate and fight of the team, and it was there to the end despite the match having already been decided.  We got plenty stuck in and disrupted Akron’s play the entire game.

We also did a good job getting crosses into the box in the first half.  A ball from Mendoza found DePuy at the edge of the 6, but his header skimmed the bar.

I thought we missed several other opportunities.  Selemani and Pando each had an ill-advised shot.  In the second half before Strong picked up his red card, I thought we were on the front foot with Akron resorting to fouling quite a bit to slow us down.  There was also a moment late in the first half where Pando played a nice give-and-go except that the ball was not returned to him.  I’m a big believer in rewarding outside backs with the ball when they put in the effort to make a run like that.  Also, just practically speaking, if we lose the ball, our right back find himself deep into the offensive end, and now you’ve forced him to sprint back and left your team more vulnerable.

Oh, in addition to the missed PK by Akron, we dodged another bullet when Quezada made a great sliding block of a short range shot.  I don’t know what was responsible for Akron’s first goal, but if it was not Quezada, I thought he had a solid match.

We played well enough to earn a result, but this will prove to be an opportunity missed given the RPI boost we would have earned versus a highly ranked team on their field.

We host bitter rival UCLA on Saturday, so it’s important that the team stay hungry and put consecutive losses behind us.

 

 

Committed Gauchos

See below for a running list of UCSB commits.  Since NCAA rules forbid Athletics to name incoming players until they have signed and submitted their Letter of Intent (LOI), verbal commitments are non-binding.

 

2018 Commits

Freshmen

Diran Bebekian (verbal), Midfielder, Real Salt Lake Academy Arizona

Carter Clemmensen (signed), Forward, Real Salt Lake Academy Arizona

Oscar Ferreira (signed), Forward, Dos Pueblos/SBSC

Sam Fletcher (signed), Midfielder, Brophy College Prep (Arizona)

Zade Ghani (signed), Midfielder, SC del Sol (Arizona)

Ben Roach (signed), GK, Real SoCal

 

Transfers

Hunter Ashworth (signed), Defender, USF (So)

Thibault Candia (signed), Forward, Temple (Jr)

Victor Chavez (signed), Forward, SBCC (Jr)

Faouzi Taieb (signed), Defender, St Francis Brooklyn (Jr)

 

 

2019 Commits

Julian Araujo (verbal), Defender, SBSC and US U16 BNT

Frank Daroma (verbal), Forward, SBSC

Musa Yansaneh (verbal), Midfielder, SBSC

Luka Zivkovic (verbal), Forward