High definition television has revolutionized the sports viewing experience. What it hasn't revolutionized is the SEC's ability to use high definition to help with instant replay review. That's because the televisions in the instant replay booth at SEC stadiums aren't in HD.
Yep, every time I think an SEC officiating error is going to surprise me, I get reminded that satirizing SEC officiating is really a hard business. Why? Because the satire writes itself. You, me, and millions of other people who watch games at home have a better view of controversial plays than the guys in the instant replay booth.
And the only thing worse than that is that the director of SEC officiating, Rogers Redding, doesn't think it would make much of a difference to have HD television. In fact, he wouldn't oppose making the change, but he won't fight for it either.
"The way I view [officiating] is, if this isn't broke, let's not fix it," he told the Birmingham News. "I don't see any sort of emergency, oh my God, we've got to fix something here."
Yep, when it comes to HD, the SEC is just like your parents.
At least if your parents are anything like mine. My dad and mom come over to help with my son on a regular basis. Sometimes, when my son takes an afternoon nap or when my wife and I head out for a movie, I return to find my dad and mom watching my HD television on the non-HD stations. Often, with my dad, he'll be watching a sporting event that is playing in glorious HD. Only he's watching it on the standard station.
"You can't see the difference between these?" I'll ask.
"No," he'll say, sheepishly.
I've basically given up with him.
Now when we come home and turn on the television after they've been over, my wife will say, "Why is it on this channel?"
Like she's come home and turned on Cinemax's excellent "Sexo Urbano: Lima." (Note: this rarely happens because usually I change the channel back to the Sprout network.)
Now, the SEC feels the same way. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, their sterling officiating couldn't possibly be helped by HD feeds of the game. That's despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. In fact, when you watch the replays in HD, and then think what they might look like in standard definition, you can actually see why a call might not be made. Because, quite frankly, the official can't even see the play.
Currently, and this is no joke, you and I are better equipped to decide controversial plays from our living rooms than the SEC officials are from the replay booths in the stadium. This would be funny if your team wasn't getting screwed by the failure of the most competitive football conference in America to jump on the high definition "trend." And, of course, by "trend" I mean something that every SEC sports fan under 40 with a scintilla of disposable income -- and many without that -- already have had themselves for over half a decade.
In the meantime, SEC officiating has been slammed for the errors associated with having antediluvian equipment in their stadiums. Nick Saban, a man who has benefited from the errors made in favor of Alabama this season, even thinks we've been too harsh on the officials.
"If I was an official, and I was making what I made officiating because I love the game and I love doing it," Saban said, "and I was getting criticized by the media -- including our announcers on TV -- like these guys are getting criticized, I'd step back and say, 'I think I'll go to the lake this weekend. You can have this.' That's what I'd do."
It's nice of Nick Saban to come to the aid of all the men who have been messing up in his favor. That makes sense. Hell, I'd probably defend people who made errors in my favor too. For instance if banks kept doubling my paycheck every week I might say: "If I was a banker, and I was making what I made banking because I love the bank, and I love banking, and I was criticized by the banking media, I'd step back and say, 'I think I'll go to the lake this weekend. You can have this bank.' That's what I'd do."'
Because then you know what might happen if I said this? The bank might keep giving me more money.
But aside from Saban's self-serving defense, I don't think officials or instant replay officials should bear the brunt of this criticism. If they're not smart enough to stomp their feet and demand the best equipment, the league office should be. Yep, the mighty SEC that spent the offseason so worried about whether or not people were going to be tweeting or live-blogging from inside their stadiums, hasn't even bothered to make sure that they've given their officials the best equipment to make the correct calls.
Calls that, oh by the way, get magnified a thousand fold under the new multi-billion dollar television contract they've signed with CBS and ESPN -- both HD broadcasters. What's another reason, aside from increased media attention that these calls get magnified? Because such a fine line often separates winners from losers in conference play.
That's the real story here, officiating is under the microscope because the difference between teams these days is microscopic. If every game in the conference was decided by three touchdowns, a few missed calls here and there wouldn't be as significant.
But when many of the most high-profile games are coming down to a single play, failure of this magnitude is unacceptable. The difference between having HD in a booth and not having HD in a booth truly can decide the outcome of games, perhaps even champions. How in the world has this been allowed to continue?
I asked the SEC offices what it would cost to implement HD feeds for instant replay in every SEC stadium. They didn't get back to me. Convenient. But I'll give you the answer, an awful lot less than missing a big call costs in public perception. Tens of millions less than that, in fact.
All of us watching in HD saw LSU's Patrick Peterson intercept Alabama's Greg McElroy in the fourth quarter of the Tide's eventual 24-15 victory. In regular definition who knows what it looked like? I don't, and you don't either. But you know who does? The SEC's instant replay official.
In the meantime, my dad doesn't see what the big deal is about HD for games. "What is the HD button again?" he asks, channeling the SEC corporate offices.
I'll reiterate my offer to commissioner Mike Slive that I made on Saturday, consider my HD television to be at your disposal, give me a ring if you need help with a call. After all, I and millions of other SEC fans will have a better view of the play than your instant replay officials.