On September 3rd, the NCAA announced its intention to experiment with instant replay during televised lacrosse games in the spring of 2010. The decision came on the heels of a 2009 season where close calls on the goal line and illegal tactics during face-offs were on the rise. But is the game of lacrosse conducive to this kind of technology?
When instant replay was introduced to the NFL, critics blasted it for taking the “human element” out of the game. When it’s success in the pro ranks paved the way for its implementation at the college level, many fans believed it would slow the game down in a way that could have a significant effect on momentum.
So what will the concerns of college lacrosse fans and players be regarding the way instant replay is used next season?
A couple of possibilities:
1. While the popularity of NCAA lacrosse is booming, the vast majority of Division 1 games go untelevised. Therefore, only games that are being covered by one of the major networks will have the option of using instant replay. Even then, those networks will have to agree to fix a camera on each goal line. I can’t venture a guess on what that means in terms of the number of contests that will be properly equipped to use the new technology, but it does mean that a small portion of games will be officiated in a manner that doesn’t align with the rest of those being played. What makes instant replay work in the NFL and college football is that its use is available in the same manner across the board. Whether USC and Ohio State are squaring off in an early season national showcase, or Toledo and Bowling Green are playing a MAC game that nobody cares about, teams will have access to instant replay. The current proposal regarding instant replay in college lacrosse will not allow for this kind of uniformity.
2. One of the most beautiful aspects of lacrosse is the fluidity of the action on the field. The game rarely stops, allowing for multiple exciting sequence to take place in succession. Traditionalists already believe this part of the game has been slipping away through the use of specialized positions (leading to the constant use of the horn by coaches), and a new emphasis on ball control offenses. Stopping the game to check a replay will only add to the deterioration of the “fastest” game on two feet.
Instant replay certainly has the potential to improve the game. We all want the calls on the field to reflect what truly happened during the course of play, and it wouldn’t hurt to clean up what goes on during face-offs. But does the overall concept mesh with the philosophy of the sport? I don’t think so, but you might disagree.