Giving Thanks For No Instant Replay

November 27, 2010 – 2:08 pm

I know I’m in a very small minority in not wanting instant replay adopted in baseball, but it seems like every time I watch a football game lately there’s always at least one glaring example of why instant replay in football is an absolute joke and has contributed nothing to the game.  Case in point was last weekend’s Texas-Florida Atlantic game.  Yeah, I know, a totally meaningless game, but it still makes for a great lesson in instant replay.  First off you had Texas’ Cody Johnson scoring on a two-yard run.  It was ruled a touchdown on the field, and the replays showed that it was indeed a close call — the equivalent of baseball’s “bang-bang play” — but clearly there was not enough there to overrule the call on the field.  But that’s exactly what the replay officials did.  Essentially they totally ignored the call on the field and made the call from scratch based on the replay — with all it’s inherent problems of being a zoomed two-dimensional flat image.  So all that was accomplished was a close call on the field that could have gone either way was reversed by a close call in the replay booth that could have gone either way.  How is the game better because of that?

Then later in that same game Texas’ Marquise Goodwin made a spectacular catch in the back of the end zone on a 32-yard pass play that was ruled on the field as a completed pass and thus a touchdown.  And the replay clearly showed that he had indeed gained control of the ball and gotten one foot in bounds.  Both the announcers in the booth agreed 100% with the on-field call after watching the replays, and stated flatly that the touchdown would obviously stand.  But somehow something got mixed up in the replay booth — possibly the officials were mistakenly shown replays from a totally different play than the one under review, as that’s about the only way one can explain them overturning the call.  The announcers were totally stunned, as well they should have been.  What really happened with the replay officials is anyone’s guess, but this was an obvious case of a totally blown call.  But it happened in the replay booth, not on the field.  Replay review is supposed to correct what are obviously blown calls on the field, not make blown calls in the booth.  In this case, not only is the game not better, it’s worse off than it was without replay.

Then in the Auburn-Alabama game Saturday we had an egregious example of how a terrible call goes uncorrected because it’s not one that is “reviewable”.  The play in question was an unsportsmanlike call on Auburn’s Nick Fairley when he sacked the Alabama quarterback on third-and-long.  At that point in the game, that play had the potential to be a game-changer.  Alabama was already up 14-0, and driving towards another score.  The sack stops the drive and puts them out of even field goal range.  Instead Bama gets a first down, and quickly proceeds to score a TD.  And what did Fairley do to draw the flag?  Absolutely nothing that you don’t see done routinely after any big play in any game anywhere.  There was no excuse whatsoever for that call.  And kudos to the CBS half-time analyst who passionately called out the ref who made the call.  Bottom line is that this could have easily been the biggest play of the game, the referees got it 100% totally wrong, and there was nothing that instant replay could do to correct the botched call.

So here we have three examples of what a disaster instant replay is in college football.  And by no means am I cherry picking here — you can hardly get through any football game these days — either college for NFL — where you don’t see at least one example of instant replay gone awry.  But here’s the most important point of all — in all three of these examples, the botched call made NO DIFFERENCE in the final outcome of the games.  And that’s what makes the whole issue of instant replay so stupid — how often do you see an obviously wrong call on the field correctly reversed by instant replay that actually changes the outcome of the game?  It hardly ever happens.  And for every rare instance where it does affect the eventual outcome of the game, half the time time the reversed call is in fact just as controversial as the call on the field.  So what has been accomplished?  The game is no better off for it, and arguably worse in many ways.  The whole concept of instant replay just makes no sense.  The longer it stays out of baseball, the better the game will  be.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.