Schuck's Clipboard

Human error part of sports at every level

Super Bowl Boycott
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (11) works for a coach against Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) during the second half the NFL football NFC championship game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert STF
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 4, 2019 1:25 am Updated: Feb. 4, 2019 1:28 am

During the buildup for Super Bowl LIII and at times during the game's broadcast, questions were raised about the need for enhanced instant replay and how it could have changed one of the teams playing Sunday.

What is overlooked in such a conversation is that human error is part of sports. Always has been, always will be.

More technology doesn't fix that, nor does it need to.

Examine the circumstances surrounding the play that sparked this discussion.

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman blatantly interfered with New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis on a third-and-10 pass play that would have resulted in a first down. No penalty was called, forcing the Saints to kick a go-ahead field goal with enough time remaining for the Rams to get in position for a field goal that forced overtime.

Replays showed Robey-Coleman not only interfered with Lewis, but he also delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit in which he was later fined by the NFL. What gets overlooked is what happened two plays earlier.

On first and 10 from the Rams' 13-yard line with 1:58 to play, the Saints chose not to run the ball and keep the clock running. Instead, future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees threw a pass intended for Michael Thomas on a quick slant. The pass was incomplete as Brees threw it at Thomas' feet.

The clock didn't run. The line of scrimmage didn't move. The Saints didn't improve their chances of winning. There was no instant replay for that.

The coaching staff made an error in judgment by calling a pass play in an obvious running situation. Brees made an error in execution with a poor pass. The Saints erred in settling for a field goal instead of getting into the end zone.

That's the nature of sports. Human error exists at every level. Officiating errors are human errors, too.

To fans, those errors seem more egregious. Ask Don Denkinger and countless other umpires, referees or officials who have been vilified about the reaction from fans. They aren't perfect. Neither are coaches or players.

Fielding errors, missed dunks and shots off the crossbar impact games as much if not more than an officiating error. No replay ever changes any of those plays.

More replays or better replays don't solve the problem. Understanding and accepting human error make the mistakes more palatable.

Frustration and dismay over missed calls is understandable, but taking the game to a more technological level doesn't make it better. It makes it easier to complain and ask for a way to take human error out of the equation.

In games played by humans, officiated by humans and coached by humans, errors are expected. Without them, what would fans complain about?