Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Instant replay in sports

Instant replay goes back along way in sports. The first known use of replay in sports came in 1955 during a Hockey Night in America broadcast on CBC Television; producer George Retzlaff used a "wet-film" (kinescope) replay, which aired several minutes later.

With the first instant replay being used in football in 1963, as CBS Sports Director Tony Verna invented a system to enable a standard videotape machine to instantly replay on December 7, 1963, for the network's coverage of the Army–Navy Game.

After technical hitches, the only replay broadcast was Rollie Stichweh's winning touchdown. It was replayed at the original speed, with commentator Lindsey Nelson advising viewers "Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!

Leagues using instant replay in official decision making include the National Hockey League, National Football League, Canadian Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball.

But referees and sports them selves have only used instant replay for a short period. 

The NBA started the use of replay in 2002, after the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. After that moment replay was used for last second shots, and to determine if a shot was a three-pointer or two-pointer.

In the NFL and DFL replay has been used since 1986, although very limited, the current system was invented in 1999, bringing in the ability to challenge calls on the field. The current system mirrors a system used by the now defunct USFL in 1985. Each coach is allowed two opportunities per game to make a coach's challenge. Before the 2004 NFL season, the instant replay rule was slightly changed to allow a third challenge if both of the original two challenges were successful.

The NHL does use replay to see if goals at the end of the period have the puck went over goal line before time expired. But that is the extent of replay in the NHL.

In baseball replay has been used for 2008 and is used for boundary calls. Among the reviewable plays are; Fair Ball-homerun, Foul Ball, Ball Clearing Wall-homerun, Ball Staying in Play-Live Ball, Ball Leaving Field of Play-homerun, Ball or Player interfered with by spectators.

This brings me to a situation were replay, which is supposed to help you make the right call, was misused on Tuesday, May 7 when the Oakland Athletics Adam Rosales hit, what should have been a game-tying two-run homerun in the ninth inning of the game against the Cleveland Indians.

Umpire Angel Hernandez who was crew chief on the night called the home run a double and the A’s were unable to tie the game although loading the bases, ending up on the short side to the Indians 4-3.

MLB executive vice president Joe Torre said, “An improper call was made.”

However, despite pointing out the mistake, Torre said the disputed call would stand. The Indians still earn the 4-3 victory.

Everyone remembers the call in the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers game last year with the replacement referees. Had replay been used correctly the Packers would have won the game, not the Seahawks, and a whole season changes.

For the A’s the call by Hernandez might not change the season, being just one loss. But that being said, the Oakland squad only won the American League West by a single game last year, on the last day of the season against the Texas Rangers, a division opponent.

So in my opinion it is the wrong thing to do to let the call stand.

If Major League Baseball wants to prove they are willing to do the right thing, they should allow the two teams to pick up where the game was if they had reversed the calling, giving Rosales the game-tying homerun.

However, as much as I would like to think the MLB is willing to correct a wrong, I think it is highly unlikely a new ruling will come down, now multiple days since the event.

As well with the change of Inter League play happening more often, and clubs visiting clubs out side of their own division less, the A’s don’t’ travel to Cleveland again this year, making accommodations for the game, albeit not a full nine-inning contest, still be hard to do, given each teams scheduled off-days for the rest of the season.

So what comes next with replay, is it more usage, or less?

I think less usage would be the way to go, getting back to the roots of sports where a referees call was the final word, not an instant replay. But the times change and technology drives us, so replay is most likely here to stay. For better or for worse.