I Hate Instant Replay

PFT – The Lions had what appeared to be another incredible fourth-quarter comeback victory today in Detroit. And then came instant replay.

After Golden Tate appeared to score a game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left, an instant replay review ruled that Tate’s knee was down before the ball crossed the goal line. By NFL rule, when the clock was stopped only because of a call that was then overturned, there’s an automatic 10-second runoff. Because there were only eight seconds remaining when Tate was originally ruled to have scored, the runoff ended the game.

This play and the outcome of this game perfectly encapsulate what is wrong with instant replay in sports. Instead of games being decided by players and officials on the field, games are being decided in dark, windowless rooms by the members of the leagues’ AV clubs in New York.

I’ve watched the replay of Golden Tate’s catch at game speed at least a dozen times, and I don’t know how any referee could call it anything but a touchdown in that moment. After watching the replay in slow motion a few dozen times more, was Tate’s knee down before the ball crossed the plane? Maybe. But that is not a blown call. That is a tough call that went the Lions’ way instead of the Falcons’ way, and that’s the way it should have stayed.

Instant replay was introduced as a way to get obviously blown calls corrected. Think of Don Denkinger’s safe call in the 1985 World Series, or Jim Joyce blowing Armando Galarraga’s perfect game with one out to go. Instant replay should not, in my opinion, be used as an attempt to achieve 100% perfect officiating. Perfect officiating is simply not possible, regardless of how much technology is implemented. It just shifts human error from one spot to another. Using instant replay in an attempt to achieve 100% perfect officiating opens a Pandora’s Box of bizarre and illogical outcomes just like the one yesterday in Detroit.

Last year, the Boise State men’s basketball team won a game at the buzzer on a Hail Mary shot. The ball was inbounded with .8 seconds on the clock and the player got the shot off before time expired. However, after review, the officials found that the clock was wrong. The clock did not start when the player first touched the ball, so the officials used a stopwatch and saw that it took him 1.3 seconds to get the shot off. The basket was waived off and the game ended.

Any sports fan who says they want more of this stuff is lying. Besides the artificially engineered game outcomes, instant replay is the reason the last minute of a basketball game takes 10 minutes now instead of just five. It’s why no one knows what a catch is. It’s why the “neighborhood play” is now the most dangerous play in baseball.

I’ve long been on the record advocating for more restraint with the use of instant replay, but I don’t know if there’s any turning back now. It would’ve been nice to see the Lions get one more untimed down at the end of the game yesterday but I’m not sure more lines in the rule book are the answer either.

I’ve always been told that football is a game of inches. Instant replay has turned it into a game of millimeters.

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