Getting in sync

On Saturday night, we saw a goal scored by the Toronto Rock that shouldn’t have counted. Brett Hickey’s buzzer-beater at the end of the second quarter seemed to have gone in a split-second after the buzzer, but the referees who reviewed it couldn’t find definitive proof that the call was wrong, so they had to allow the goal. I don’t fault the refs for this call since they didn’t have sufficient information to call off the goal. But I have a proposed solution to that problem. Quite honestly, this seems like a fairly obvious solution, so there may be a perfectly good explanation for this that I am not aware of, or some huge drawback that I’m missing.

During the last 30 seconds of each quarter of an NLL game, any reset of the shot clock causes it to be disabled. Usually it’s set to 30 but does not run. I have heard countless broadcast announcers mention this: “With fifteen seconds left in the quarter, the shot clock is off.” But this has two significant drawbacks:

  1. Players cannot see the game clock as easily as the shot clock. In some arenas, they may be able to look up at the ribbon board or another display board above the net that’s showing the game clock, but it’s not as close to their field of vision as the shot clock. The “rule” for determining how much time you have left before you must shoot is given by: “Look at the shot clock unless there is less than 30 seconds left in the quarter and the shot clock has been turned off, in which case look at the game clock.” This inconsistency is confusing and unnecessary.
  2. In the case of a goal that’s scored near the end of the quarter and challenged, the referees are much more likely to have the shot clock available in the replay video than the game clock. We saw this with Hickey’s goal on Saturday. This goal was called a goal on the floor and even though it seemed that the ball went in after time ran out, there was no conclusive evidence and so the call on the floor stood. The shot clock was clearly visible in the video but it said 30 and was not moving, so it was of no value.

I propose that when a shot clock reset is signaled by the refs within the last 30 seconds of a quarter, the shot clock should become synchronized with the game clock. For example, if the referee signals that the shot clock should be reset when there are 17.3 seconds left in the quarter, the shot clock would start counting down from 17.3, exactly in time with the game clock. This eliminates both of the problems I described above:

  1. Players could then simply watch the shot clock like they always do and know how much time is left before they must shoot, regardless of how much time is left in the quarter. There’s no “watch this clock unless it’s off in which case watch this other clock that’s harder to see”, it’s always just “watch the shot clock”.
  2. The shot clock is much more likely to be in the frame when the officials are examining the replay to see if the ball went in on time.

This would require no extra work on the parts of the referees or the shot-clock operator. The software could be programmed so that when a shot-clock reset is indicated and less than 30 seconds remain in the quarter, the shot clock would be set to the current remaining time on the game clock.

Alternatively, a light could be installed behind the net, next to the goal lights, that is set to come on as soon as the game clock reaches 0. If in the replay, that light is on before the ball goes in the net, the goal does not count. Oddly, there does appear to be a green light behind the net in Rochester that came on once the time reached 0. This light was either ignored or not seen by the officials, as it clearly came on before the ball entered the net. Note the picture below (tweeted shortly after the game by Brad MacArthur, though I added the red circles) showing the light on and the ball not yet in the net.

Buzzer-beaterFor the record, I am a fan of the Toronto Rock. This is not an angry Knighthawk fan saying Toronto’s goal shouldn’t have counted. (This is actually a Toronto fan saying that Toronto’s goal shouldn’t have counted.) I am making this proposal not as a Rock fan but as a lacrosse fan, in the hopes that we can make it easier to get the calls right as often as possible.

As I said, there may be a perfectly good reason why this is not possible. But as far as I can see, this is a fairly simple solution that solves two problems, makes things easier for players; officials; and fans, and has no drawbacks that I am aware of.

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