15 August 2005

Arsenal-Newcastle Aftermath

I saw two things I liked after the game.

The first was the fact that Graeme Souness skipped the press conference after the game. I'm not a Souness fan, and it seems odd to praise him for avoiding the media. But I think it's much better for him to do that, than to end up saying something he would regret later. And when he did speak — calmly, later — he took some blame on himself, at least for urging Jenas into the tackle. Nicely said.

Then today, referee Steve Bennett downgraded the card from red to yellow after reviewing the video. It was the right thing to do. The red was too harsh, and Bennett was able to realize this after checking the replay. In the past, refs seem unlikely to change their decisions after the fact, perhaps in an attempt to avoid further recrimination. I'm sure that the change does little to mollify the Toon faithful, but it does make a difference, as Jenas will no longer face a three-match ban. Bravely done.

One note to those who would call for video replay in situations like this: be careful what you ask for. Try watching some American football first. Of course, NFL games are inherently stop-start, and involve plenty of time-outs and play stoppage. Even so, when the ref goes to the monitor, the game draws to a halt, usually for a few minutes. (There are time limits, but when you factor in the time to call for a replay, the time to walk to the monitor, and the time to make the decision, it all adds up.) Certainly I've seen some bad calls made right, so perhaps it's worthwhile. But that kind of play stoppage in a soccer match? Difficult to imagine. In the end, I think it's better to rely on the man on the field. He'll make mistakes, some of them crucial and painful... but that's the way life is, sometimes. Better that than stopping the game so that he can watch some TV.

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