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Dunlap: We Don’t Need Replay In Sports

There can be no degrees of subjectivity. 

April 24, 2019 - 2:50 pm
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Related: San Jose Scores 4 Goals In 4 Minutes, Then Wins Game 7 In OT

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - It was a bad call. Yep, no question it was a bad call --- at least in terms of how the National Hockey League is officiated nowadays. 

It was the cross-check heard around the league late Tuesday night as Cody Eakin of the Vegas Golden Knights drilled San Jose’s Joe Pavelski midway through the third period. 

It should have been a two-minute penalty. 

They gave five. 

We all know what happened next --- San Jose rallied from a 3-0 deficit, scored four times on the gifted power play and ended up advancing while Vegas was left to complain mightily. 

Then the next shoe dropped. People called for replay intervention in the future to somehow fix such an issue. 

Just how people called for expanded replay intervention to fix an issue in the NFC Championship Game in terms of pass interference. 

Just how people called for expanded replay intervention to fix an issue in the NCAA basketball semifinal as it pertained to a horribly missed double dribble call. 

Three key moments in enormous games, three sports that already have a measure of replay within them and three instances wherein replay wasn’t able to be pushed into the action to rectify something.

It’s all kind of quizzical to many. To me, however, it’s expected. Here is why: Replay can only truly function in an all or nothing scenario. That is to say, every single play and situation needs to be open for replay (which could make games about 10 hours) or nothing can be open for replay for the system to effectively work. 

There can be no degrees of subjectivity. 

For instance, some people have this grand idea that only plays that fall within a certain time frame --- say, the last two minutes --- should be up for review. Why? Are there no plays before then that could be just as consequential or even more consequential?

Some people also champion a system where a coach or team gets a finite number of challenges. Why? Could there not be more than that number of instances in a game where something would be overturned via replay?

Some also want to select the type of plays --- pass interference in football, for instance --- that can be reviewed while others aren’t open to the same scrutiny. Why? Can a missed hold, false start or fasemask not impact a game in the exact same way a botched pass interference call could? It says here it very much can. 

Then you also get the argument that the technology is there and it has to be put to use as there is no way the paying customer at the venue or at home on their TV should see a replay that isn’t available to those potentially changing a call. Why? Even as it is now I see plenty of replays on controversial plays that aren’t reviewable. 

So here we are. 

Another huge moment in sports, another substandard piece of officiating and more cries for expanded replay to try to “fix” things. 

How about we do this instead … how about we take replay totally out of sports. How about we go back to living with the totality of the human element. 

Part of the romanticism and draw of sports, for me at least, is that they are imperfect --- they don’t always go as planned and many, many times someone falls short. Sports, and the games we play and watch, can be so pure and honest and often yield moments that show a lot about the character of someone.

We should demand much from officials in all sports at the highest levels. But we should also return to a world where we understand human error is part of all this. And it is OK to be part of all this. 

Because, like I said, unless you are willing to withstand every single second and every single play of every single game being reviewed by replay, there will always be room for someone to gripe that there should be more. ​

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