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Sports replay has a PR problem (really?)

It wasn’t long ago when fans screamed for more video replay to help officials get calls right. I think it was last week.

After a Kentucky Derby complaint made moments after Maximum Security was tabbed the unofficial winner and happy interviews aired on NBC Sports, a commission review overturned the result and made Country House the eventual winner of the 2019 “most exciting two minute in sports.” **Maximum Security and Country House are horses names, in case you wondered.

If this was a corporation that was stripped of a decision, lawyers would be brought in and a lot of money would be spent to publicly debate each side of the argument. Groups would lobby for their side … much like what’s happening with sports replay.

I won’t debate the call and the existence of interference in the Derby, only to say if there was controversy, other horses were interfered with more than the eventual champ. But I digress.

This makes the eleventy-billionth time this year that video replay decided a major sporting event (see NFL’s NFC title game, NCAA Championship game). And the horse race didn’t involve “instant” replay. The Derby review took 20 minutes. TWENTY MINUTES to change history — a race had never been overturned based on what happened on the track. Major League Baseball is exasperated!

The point is, for years, fans have argued for more review in sports. After all, if we at home can see ball vs. strike, catch vs. non-catch or ball possession, the call on the field should reflect that. Referees and officials are human and understandably make mistakes, and today they have video support as permitted by their sport.

After the extended, unprecedented review in Louisville, however, some of those voices are calling for less replay. It’s a damned if we do/don’t video world. And when big money is involved as it is with horse racing and as sports gambling becomes more mainstream, there’s a lot more at stake than who wins the game.

Depending on what side you sit, sports replay needs consistency. I think replay is necessary because fans are able to see most everything thanks to sophisticated camera angles. The now-defunct AAF got it right when it allowed television viewers to see the review process play out in real time. It was transparent, detailed and fans were able to follow the process from coaches’ challenge to call. That in a nutshell, would make for a convincing campaign. It lets fans know your league is doing everything you can to get the call right.

Photo: Stocksnap


©Gail Sideman; 2019

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