September 16, 2020
Instant replay.Two words that have generated a tremendous amount of controversy over the last few years in just about every sport you can imagine – becoming a buzzword of sorts and earning a mention in almost every sporting event that is played.And yet, when instant replay is consulted, the heckling from fans that used to be directed at the call itself has now found a target in whether or not a play should have been reviewed or what effects the review itself might have had on the game.For a prime example, you need not look farther than the recent NCAA Tournament for basketball.Just one day before the disappointing first round exit by the Badgers Friday, the other team from Wisconsin, Marquette, was just 10 seconds away from a similar fate.With Davidson clinging to a slim one-point lead, a long pass to a Davidson player up the court on a fast break opportunity led to a turnover, giving the Golden Eagles one last chance to salvage their season and move on to the round of 32.But – as if to almost double punish the Wildcats – the referees reviewed the play to adjust the game clock, essentially giving Marquette a critical quasi-timeout when the team had none remaining.With an extra 1.2 seconds added to the clock, Marquette executed the next play perfectly and junior guard Vander Blue drove to the basket for an easy layup to win the game.Now whether or not the extra timeout was really influential in the game’s outcome is hard to determine, but the possibility certainly remains, and for many fans that is all they need to get up in arms.Still, it is not my goal to argue that the NCAA change its rules concerning instant replay – I’ll leave that to the college basketball experts – but rather, I tell this story to challenge the all-too-often accepted concept that technology in sports equals progress.Instant replay brings more changes to the game than simply solving the “human-error” problem that having referees poses, and not all of them are good.In all of the excitement surrounding instant replay, the push for its acceptance into all sports has come to ignore the compatibility of each sport to the technology.Just less than two weeks ago, April 11 to be exact, the English Premier League announced its decision to allow goal-line technology – to be used in the event that it is difficult to tell whether or not a goal has been scored – when the 2013-14 season rolls around next August.One of the last sports to hold out against instant replay, claiming that soccer is not conducive to the stoppages that come with adding instant replay, soccer has finally given in over the last year to begin the process of integrating instant replay to the game.While it is only a small change that certainly won’t be employed all too often, considering a 0-0 score line at the end of the game is as common as triple-digit scores by basketball teams in the NBA, when it is used, it risks completely changing a game that has become famous for its ebb and flow nature.In a sport where the average player runs more than seven miles between the start of the game and its end 90 minutes later, the role that fitness plays in the game is crucial – often the key factor in deciding the game’s final score.So the chance to pause a game, catch your breath or maybe grab a quick gulp of water can become a great equalizer in a sport that is already criticized for its lack of scoring.This is not to say, however, that instant replay doesn’t have a place in sports. It does.Sports like baseball and football, and occasionally even basketball, that stop and start frequently are far more conducive to instant replay and can reap the benefits from its use. But using instant replay whenever possible should not become the gold standard with which all sports should have to measure up to.Call me old-fashioned, at the ripe old age of 21, but part of the allure that sports present is the idea that – at any moment – someone could do something great or someone could make a mistake that decides the game.That human element makes the game real. Without it a sport loses its personality.Certainly comparing the human error of the players and officials is not a perfect analogy – after all, we consider it a refereeing success if we don’t notice them for the entire game – but the two are much more similar than you may think.Banned across the sports world, steroids provide athletes with the possibility of becoming more perfect versions of themselves – playing the game better than it has ever been played before.Yet, steroids have taken harsh criticism for that very reason, while instant replay has not.So my question is: Why do we not look at instant replay the same way?If you ask me, sports need that human element, our athletes and our officials need to be fallible to some extent, or they quickly lose one of the critical parts of their identity that makes them so engaging.After all it is the belief in sports that “anything could happen” that makes the game so enticing.Take that unpredictability away and you might as well be playing the newest version of FIFA Soccer 2013 or NBA 2K13 collecting dust on your bookshelf. With how great the graphics are getting these days, there wouldn’t be much of a difference.Nick is a junior majoring in journalism and political science. Think universal instant replay is the way to go? Shoot him an email at [email protected] or tweet at him @np_daniels.