Lets rewind it back

Misty Olawunmi, Contributing Writer

For many Americans, the 1963 Army-Navy football game was a day of mourning. The game, originally dated Nov. 30, was postponed after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Instead, the game was played on Dec. 7, at the request of Kennedy’s widow, in the late president’s honor. Unbeknownst to viewers at home, one man was about to change how we watch sports forever.

Behind the scenes, CBS director Tony Verna wanted to find a way to cut down on the long inactive periods between plays. He also pondered how he could show viewers at home multiple camera angles that would better explain what happened on the field. These thoughts led Verna to dream about an “instant” in-game replay that would allow viewers to experience the game more comprehensively. This concept was unheard of due to the limited technology and high costs at the time.

On that bleak December morning, viewers at home saw Army quarterback Rollie Stitchweh score a touchdown twice in a row. This prompted a warning from announcer Lindsey Nelson.

“This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, the Army did not score again,” Nelson said.

And at that very moment, instant replay in live sports was born.

No footage exists of that first instant replay, but its impact has grown beyond Verna’s dream. Instant replay has proven to be a staple of sports broadcasting as it allows viewers to experience plays in a different light. Moreover, with technological advancements, instant replay has expanded into professional leagues. As a result, controversy has arisen over an increased reliance on instant replay, bringing into question whether instant replay is helping or hurting.

Sports are at their best when they are fair, with no team having a clear advantage. Who or what then ensures that it remains fair? Officials make sure sporting events are conducted in a fair and safe environment by enforcing the rules. As a result, referees hold authority when they preside over games, making their moral character critical to preserving the integrity of the rules. Spectators expect officials to have values such as respect, honesty and trustworthiness. So, what happens when an official violates these principles?

Does instant replay help sports or hurt them? Perhaps, the real question is: is instant replay being allowed to achieve its purpose of 100% accuracy? News outlets and fans point out blown calls often, which is understandable if it costs a team the game. This mentality, however, fails to remember that referees are humans, too; we are prone to mistakes when we make hasty decisions. Officials must use quick thinking to make judgment calls from only one perspective, creating a situation where mistakes are more likely to happen. Instant replays help solve this issue by giving officials the chance to review their calls and overturn them if necessary.

Ideally, officiating should be impartial, but referees also hold unconscious biases that affect their judgment. The phenomena of temporal variance highlight these biases — for example, referees may enforce different rules at different sets of times, especially in late-game situations. Crucial calls near the end of the game can tip the game in one team’s favor to give that team the chance to catch up. Instant replay holds refs accountable while aiding them through transparency, supporting further neutrality. That is only if the refs adhere to the evidence provided by the video assistant referee; in some cases, the call might still be upheld or worse: the officials do not know what happened, displaying the limitations of instant replay.

Whether a player is in bounds or not or whether the player’s foot was on the line can be easily called with the help of replay; however, some calls involving instant replay delay the game due to the need to review the footage for longer. This disrupts the flow of the game, slowing its pace as some critics of instant replay have pointed out. As a result, momentum is lost, but it can be argued that this already occurs with things such as timeouts, disturbances and commercial breaks. While a slower pace might be frustrating, if it allows the game to be fairer for both teams/competitors, that means the outcome will be more unbiased. Instant replay provides the facts of the case, and it is up to the officials to uphold the integrity of not just their respective sports, but themselves.