News: Athletics

Be here now

By A.J. Moore

A name keeps popping into my head every time I watch a game. Nope, it's not Mickey Mantle, Tom Brady or Wayne Gretzky. The name is Alvin Toffler, an odd one for sports fans.

Although "Alvin Toffler" sounds like he should be a middle infielder for the Phillies, that's not the case. He was a renowned author who wrote an influential book in 1970 called Future Shock. What he wrote about nearly 50 years ago relates to your sports experiences these days.

Toffler’s forward-thinking work helped coin the phrase “information overload.” He argued that too much technology and information jumble our minds and make problem-solving difficult. Yes, information is king but an overabundance becomes problematic. And in the digital age, there is an overabundance of information and technology that is interfering with games of all kinds.

The days of "what you see on the field is what you get" are over. Currently, what you think you saw on the field is likely going to be changed or altered because it will go through an endless loop of instant replay reviews. Cameras positioned all over the field take precedence over the people officiating the games, so freeze-frame technology now holds more power than human eyes.

Sure, fixing mistakes sounds like a good idea but not when the constant and abrupt stoppages of play hinder key ingredients of sports, namely spontaneity and ephemerality.

Your favorite team just scored a touchdown? Hold your celebration because it will need to be reviewed, with a final decision still to come. Same with that diving catch in the outfield or possible steal near the baseline. Please press your emotional pause button until all the super slow-motion camera angles have been accounted for.

Too much time is now spent analyzing what happened rather than what is happening.

Human error by officials has always been part of the game. Of course, fans of the Los Angeles Rams and Vegas Golden Knights might recoil in pain from that idea, but that is a foundational element that has made sports such compelling content.

Even during the Little League World Series, 12-year-old players immediately react to bang-bang plays by making hand gestures to their heads for replay review. Pavlovian conditioning based on technology and sports is upon us.

Ironically, all these instant replay review stoppages are happening while professional and college organizations are trying to find ways to speed up the games to keep modern audiences captivated.

The leagues should think about action and drama trumping technology and adopt a rule that limits the amount of time for instant replay reviews. Keep it simple, if a call can’t be changed either way in a 90-second review session, then the ruling on the field stands. Move on to the next play.

Any more time spent with officials staring at screens as real-time ticks away just proves that Toffler was correct: Technology tends to cloud judgments.

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