Recently, as noted in USA Today newspaper (see references) professional golfer, Padraig Harrington, was disqualified at the Abu Dhabi Championship for failing to note that his ball had moved a fraction of an inch when he went to pick up the marker. Since he didn’t know the ball had moved, he didn’t replace it, which meant he wound up filling out his score-card incorrectly which DQed him. Viewers watching at home though were able to see the ball moving very clearly because they were watching the close-up on their HDTVs; and it was one of them that called into the studio to blow the whistle on poor Harrington, which resulted in the DQ.
And this wasn’t the first time. Camilo Villegas was DQed at a prior tournament for filling out his score card wrong also because a viewer at home noticed that he’d illegally swatted at some grass, a move that was only able to be seen if viewed on an HDTV.
Golf isn’t the only sport that is being affected; anyone that watches professional football knows that HDTV is really starting to make the referees look bad. Fumbles can be seen more clearly at home than on the field, and runners stepping out of bounds or not, or crossing the goal line are as easy to see on HDTV as looking down at your own hand to count the swirls in your palm; not so much for officials though, who rarely have such a good angle on events, nor are close enough to see what to those at home seems obvious.
Clearly, change is in store for the sports world. Might it be possible that MLB will do away with umpires altogether since it’s ever so much easier to simply post a camera behind the batter and watch from afar on a HDTV. Perhaps they could instigate instant voting to decide if a ball is a strike or not, of if a player made it home safe. For those that roll their eyes, the commissioner is currently “studying” the issue of allowing instant replays.
It might be that almost all sports will be effected one way or another. Clearly it’s easier to see if a ball went out of bounds on a basketball court while watching your giant HDTV from your Barcalounger than it is for a ref to see it whose there on the court.
Tennis has already turned over calling balls in or out to a computer equipped with a camera; but now broadcasters are faced with having to choose how “real” to show the athletes on the court. The sad fact is, we’ve all been shielded a little bit by our less than hi-def television sets, until now. Now we are regularly subjected to crystal clear shots of sweat, blood, nasal discharge and the occasional flash of body parts that were never meant to be seen.
The same is true for hockey, soccer and virtually every other televised sport. What was once pleasure from a safe distance is now in-your-face extremism that quite often causes us to turn away.
Clearly those running the various sports clubs are going to have to do something; the only question, is what.