The Eyes Have It: Booting Instant Replay

14 Jan

It happened again, another NFL game had its legitimacy forever thrown into question by a controversial, instant replay-aided ruling.

The now infamous edict in the Cowboys – Packers divisional playoff game, disallowing what looked to most non-GB fans to be a Tony Romo to Dez Bryant late-game TD pass in Sunday’s early contest will now live in sport infamy. The disallowed catch helped the hosts hold onto a 26-21 win and advance to face Seahawks in Seattle for NFC title.


The game itself will never carry cachet like the Ice Bowl (‘67) to which it harkened back. Not many games do. It was cold, but not that cold (-13 v 25°). Aaron Rodgers, with a sore calf, played a gutsy game, finding second wind in 2nd half to put Pack in control.

What the DAL-GB game has done is to bring into clearer focus this one, growing realization: instant replay was a mistake. A sacrilegious statement? Fiddlesticks.

It may be techo-crack for gadget geeks and video addicts, pacifier for cry-babies and give TV sponsors more window to poke their heads into our living rooms, but IR and its trappings is only making matters worse and helping to ruin our games.

It was sold as “Instant Karma,” but too many times IR has been instant headache. Officiating technology, including Jumbotron (Sony), with more sets of eyes and enhanced / different angles of vision, have not made football a better game.

It’s time to start talking about ending instant replay.

Sport scribes, TV talkers and on-line commenters spent most of Monday cackling about the Bryant moment, very little on the actual game-play, and how the NFL rule-book needs a tune-up. And that would be a red-herring, jumbo-size.


In too many critical times, one of the most incorrigible off-spring of America’s hot & heavy, on-going love affair with technology & gadgetry, the instant-replay child, has failed to, 1) not only create a clearer application of written rules to replay video but also encourages, even well-intentioned, interpretations that seem fashioned to fit the rule-book language (poor calls); 2) make truth more discernable, and 3) show a marked improvement in fan satisfaction.

Tackling the truth has proved a much more challenging task than first imagined when early-phase IR was first adopted by NFL in 1986, then upgraded in 1999.

Truth can be a slippery customer. Even if it’s stopped in its tracks, a la Kam Chancellor (man’s a force), it proves hard to “handle,” and even harder to spot.

What instant replay process and its challenge flags have too often done is lead to dicey review determinations, too much post-game deconstruction of wins, more TV commercials and made football and baseball zombies to technology.

Philosophers have debated truth since…forever. Some truths are clear (1+1=2), but put a car in front of 10 people and you’ll get five different opinions on it’s color. Even when we find the truth, we don’t always handle it very well and less often agree on it.


Referees do good, thankless work but have become on-field pawns, passive on play calls and servants to the replay overlords. And we made them that way. Shameful.

In the abstract, we all want the right (?) call, but the review-process can’t get it right with enough regularity, no matter how many sets of eyes or camera angles scrutinize the play.

But the League doesn’t like to admit a poor investment, sponsors are hard-pressed to give up the added commercial-time the reviews afford and those god awful Jumbotrons (Sony) that hang over every field now like a screaming pterodactyl are screwed in tight.

Who deserved the win in Green Bay? The Packers, of course, bad call n’ all.

Champions overcome adversity and Dallas coach Jason Garrett has said as much, as Packer-backers should’ve shut off the whine-spigot, cracked a beer (or unsweetened tea) and conceded “simultaneous(ness)” in 2012 (@ Seattle).

But it’s an awful way to walk away winners. They (GB), everyone, deserves better.


They sold us on the technology but too often, in tough calls, it’s been a frustrating failure.

Because of that, the deconstruction, the commercial drag and just because sport was never meant to be subjected to game-delaying, momentum-killing exactitude, it is high-time to extract ourselves from the morass, the addiction that has become instant replay.

It’s time to take back our game from sabrmetricians and technology goons who’ve moved in like gadgeted game-fixers in pork-pie fedora, and return officiating back to where it belongs: fully vested, on-field referees and their eyes only.

And it’s time to find some bliss, not in ignorance, but in trusting the zebras again, “get (some) satisfaction” and “get back” our game of football, the human-kind.

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo credit: replay-review, college, Cantoni, ‘07, wc.cca; referee, NFL, Parry&Colvin, wc.cca, ‘08; replay-review, MLB, 2014, johnmaxmena2, wc.cca; NFL wikiproject; NFL-referee, Cheffers, wc.cca, royalbroil, ‘13-WI.
Posted: 1.14.15 @ 12:43am EST


2 Responses to “The Eyes Have It: Booting Instant Replay”

  1. dallascowboysdishingthereal January 14, 2015 at 5:19 pm #


    And it’s not just because of the reversed call on the Dez catch (official in perfect position ruled it a catch) in the Packers game. Maybe GB goes on to win anyway and likely would have with Rodgers at QB, but we didn’t get to allow the players on the field to decide it. Some guy in NY did.
    “Indisputable evidence” is what we were all sold, but that is not what over turned that catch. People don’t agree who see the exact same evidence.
    Hated IR review before that playoff game and even more now. Reviews disrupt the flow of the game and besides, who promised life would be perfectly fair?

    • Steven Keys January 15, 2015 at 12:38 am #

      Apart from our frustration with the futility of instant replay and the purpose in review, that “disrupt(ing) the flow” (“game-delaying, momentum-killing exactitude”) has always been one of the awful by-products of this genuflect to sport-technology. And the added TV commericals only press the point, for this viewer, anyway.

      Thanks for reading and the comment.

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