KIRO Radio hosts wonder if it’s time for automated referees and umpires

Nov 16, 2021, 12:20 PM
Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks discusses a call with officials during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Nov. 14, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Seahawks 17-0. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

After some complaints about calls by the referees in the Seattle Seahawks game Sunday, KIRO Radio’s Gee Scott asked Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien if they think it’s time to have technology detect where the ball should be placed on a first down?

Or, do we still want to have human officials out on the football field to spot the ball?

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll explains ‘gripes’ about calls vs Packers

What about the umpire behind the plate in baseball? Are you ready for a computer to call balls and strikes, or do you want the human there?

“I think it would first be a really interesting behind-the-scenes exercise to find out just how accurate refs are because maybe that could lead to corrective behavior,” O’Brien said. “… Run some drills in a computerized field, … and then they get to see like, ‘Oh wow, yeah, I saw that differently, but the ball is telling me this is accurate. So now I’m going to pay closer attention to this.'”

“It doesn’t have to be change the game, it could just be change the training of refs,” she added.

Gee says he’s learned that all refs are subjective in their calls — no matter what level, from junior leagues up to professional sports.

“They all make decisions and mistakes the same way,” Gee said.

He also notes that maybe there are some refs or umpires who have been around a while and just, honestly, can’t see as well as they used to. He used himself as an example when he auctioneers. Eight years ago, he could see the bid cards in the back of the room, but today he needs a spotter to help out.

“Let’s be real — a lot of things happen. … I’m not making this an ageist conversation, but I’m talking about being real. I’m talking about myself. I don’t see as well as I used to,” Gee said. “So when we start talking about umpires and referees, and you see on TV, ‘This is his 36th year of being a ref.’ OK …”

Dave Ross suggests leaving the refs in charge, but using automation to evaluate whether it’s time to retire the referees or umpires.

“The idea is that you need to have human refs and umpires so there’s someone to complain about and yell at — except when they get to be so bad that they really can’t call the balls and strikes anymore or the first downs anymore and they have to retire,” he said. “But I agree — I think you have to leave that human element there because half of the fun of a post-game evaluation is complaining about the refs.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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KIRO Radio hosts wonder if it’s time for automated referees and umpires