Editorial: is instant replay really helpful?

Many professional sports have been lucky to have video review available to their officials, and for some leagues, for coaches to challenge certain calls. In the midst of some seasons being over (NFL, NCAA football), with some just picking up steam heading into the final stretch of the regular season (NBA, NHL, NCAA basketball), it’s that time of year where the debate often heats up about whether or not instant replay is helping or hindering sports.

There is an aspect of instant replay that I think hinders sports more than it helps it — specifically, how much it can slow the game down. How many times have you been watching a game on TV and all of a sudden there are three commercial breaks in the span of about seven minutes because a call is under review? I at least want to watch it all unfold, I don’t want to see commercials and then come back to be ‘updated’ on what happened, I don’t want to miss the call or miss the chance to see the replay! Of course, that is not up to me or any other fans and it never will be.

The idea of instant replay and the ability for coaches to challenge calls is supposed to be that officials ‘get it right’ — but is that really what’s happening? I think we see more often than we should calls being reversed that shouldn’t have been (yeah, remember that touchdown Ohio State had against Clemson in the playoff that was called back?). Maybe that goes back to the whole ‘go with your first instinct’ idea. But that’s what the players, coaches and fans want, they want increased accuracy and consistency in how the games are being called.

The instant replay and coach’s challenge are an interesting tool that truly put into question the ability and trust of the officials. Not to be harsh, but how do we manage to get to the point of video reviews actually hurting teams and in some instances even costing them games? Video review should simply confirm something that has already been called, or to possibly save an official’s butt when they may have made a poor initial call. Think of all the collegiate or youth teams who would just love to have instant replay because they are so sure a call should be reversed. But that doesn’t exist for youth sports. Why? Well, the games would just go on way, way too long.

There are still missed calls — terribly missed calls — in many professional sports games. There are challenges made where it seems clear a call should be reversed or should stand, yet the wrong call ends up being the final call.

The instant replay and coach’s challenge are only going to be truly beneficial to the league if the vast (and I mean VAST) majority of the outcomes are the right call. I don’t think anyone expects perfection, but this is professional sports, it has to be pretty close to it. Maybe the issue is not whether or not instant replay and coach’s challenges should exist (because you’d have a very hard time taking either of them away now) but maybe there should be some better training to make sure the right call will be made.


-Isabelle Cropper

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