On the Bench: Instant Replay v. The Game

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Anytime you watch a professional or major league sports game, televised or in person, you will always stumble across instant replays. This frequently used tool in the sports industry is used to replay big plays for entertainment; it shows a play from different angles and most importantly, helps referees check officiated calls or rulings made on the field.

Over the years, methods of instant replay have changed and evolved. The old instant replay booths in the NFL have now been replaced with a contributing official watching the game on replay monitors in a field office. But even though these improvements have been made, fans and critics of sports alike are unhappy with the way instant replay is being used today.

According to Lifezette.com, “In football and baseball, the biggest complaints have been about how the review delays the game,” which makes sense. Average baseball or football games can last around three hours which can take even longer when you add in another 15 minutes to look over the tape of a single play.

In general, instant replay is used to help referees and officials make accurate judgements on tight or difficult calls. In football, this is used for catches, tackles and interceptions. In baseball, they use it for pitches, hits, errors and outs. This could be a great tool if the official is in a bad position and can’t see the play with his own eyes. However, multiple replays, zoom, slow motion and other types of replay techniques cause confusion. From one angle it could appear as a catch and in another, a fumble. That’s the point of the game, it’s supposed to be up for interpretation. But now, with instant replay there is critique of every shot and frame of the camera angle. In football, rules for catches have changed dramatically as a result.

According to the NFL rulebook, a catch qualifies when the catcher gains control of the ball in his hands and maintains control with both feet remaining in bounds. When a ball is thrown, aerodynamically, there will be a lot of energy released. This can cause some bobbing and loss of control once it is caught, especially if you are in motion or being tackled. Each catch is now roughly analyzed by these parameters to determine a clear catch. Making a rule this strict takes away the fun from the game. Sports are supposed to be fast-paced and require a lot of energy and strength. When you slow it down and analyze every motion, not only is it slowing down the game, but it takes away from its true purpose.

There are some other sports like soccer which use instant replays as an effective method for checking the accuracy of completed goals. In English Premier League football, they use replay technology on the goal lines to clear up confusion on a complete or incomplete goal. With this use, the game can maintain its speed and strength while increasing the accuracy of calls.

Not every aspect of the instant replay tool is bad; when it is used properly, it’s great and helps the game. However, here’s where the problem lies: when it’s used to confirm technicalities, it adds unnecessary length to gameplay and forces officials to be the star of the game instead of the players. Here’s where the problem lies.

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