Eisenberg: I Have A Love-Hate Relationship With Replay


To be clear, I understand entirely why there was near universal acclaim for the NFL owners' decision to expand instant replay to include pass interference calls and non-calls.

I get it. This is the world we live in – hi-def display, sophisticated camera work and fans on couches with a better view of what's happening than players, coaches and officials on the field. With so many games swinging on interference yay-or-nay and technology enabling microscopic study of such contact, why not get more of those calls right?

It was, thus, hardly surprising earlier this week when the league's owners voted 31-1 to make interference reviewable on a one-year trial basis in 2019. They were under pressure to do something in the wake of a notorious interference non-call in the NFC championship game in New Orleans.

The vote prompted a loud, positive response, and I wish I could say I climbed on my desk and shouted along with the other revelers. Maybe I would've if I lived in New Orleans.

But I have a love-hate relationship with instant replay.

As stated above, I fully understand the positives. If you can get as many calls right as possible, your sport is better, certainly fairer. Considering the alternative, which New Orleans experienced, you're almost obligated to go for it.

But there's a trade-off with instant replay, one you don't hear much about. You want to know what it is, right? Sure, I'll get to it in a minute … just doodling here … thinking about things … nice weather outside, huh?

And THAT, folks, is exactly what I'm talking about – the sudden interruption to a game that … just … goes on … and on.

Replay reviews bring games to a halt. You're rolling along, feeling the drama build, and wham, everything stops, sometimes for minutes, as an unseen replay official studies multiple angles before rendering a judgment.

The cost of getting those calls right are repeated interruptions, some so long you forget what was going on in the game before time stopped.

Let's see, who was winning?

I guess most people can handle it. I'll be honest: There are times when it drives me nuts. My two cents, when you add a string of replay reviews to necessary stoppages for timeouts and injuries (the latter have increased over the years, according to studies), you aren't doing the NFL experience any favors.

Though I'm surely in the vast minority on this, it turns out I'm not entirely alone. The dissenting vote in 31-1 came from the Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Brown, who has consistently voted against various replay adjustments for years, following the lead of his late father, Paul, one of the sport's great innovators and no fan of replay.

"The reason we are against it is that it interrupts the game. It changes the character of the game, in my mind," Mike Brown said this week. "I think it's in some ways sort of odd to see people all sitting there waiting for somebody in New York to tell them it is or it isn't. I'd rather just play the game."

I kind of agree. Just play the game. If that puts me in the get-off-my-lawn club, so be it. Sure, I love getting calls right. But bad calls have been part of sports for years, and we're still watching.

No, it isn't always fair. But what is? If anything, bad calls are a reminder that humans are involved, not bots and avatars. I don't think that's so terrible.

Of course, the owners didn't vote to give coaches more replay challenges; they just expanded the list of what could be reviewed. In theory, there won't be more delays, especially since coaches still can't challenge interference in the last two minutes of a half.

But there's no cap on booth reviews in those final two minutes, and regardless, the scrutiny on such calls will only increase. My fear is broadcasts will contain more "was that interference?" chatter than "what a great play!" chatter.

Oh, well. As I said, that's the world we live in.

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