The ACC’s “The Bull at Durham” Play Sets A New Low for Replay


And yet, those who swear by video replay, seem to back it even more despite this debacle. Hell, on my own show this morning, colleague Scott Linn got extremely agitated when I prodded him to admit the obvioius: “Replay failed.”

He couldn’t say it. Wouldn’t. Got angry when I pressed him. “Replay” didn’t fail, the dummies watching it, they did.

It’s a distinction I simply don’t understand. Until somebody invents a computer to determine if a player had “completed the process of the catch” (good luck with THAT coding nightmare!) then there will always be a need for imperfect human eyes.

And no matter how smart, how handsome, and how brave you find for a replay official (think Dean Blandino, with six pack abs and a Corvette Stingray) he will still make mistakes.

Or, better yet: he will make decisions that LOOK like mistakes, to at least half the football watching population.

I don’t know what will happen once that ACC crew comes off it’s 2 week suspension. Are they going to be less stupid now? How could they have allowed that travesty to happen in the first place? Until I hear all of the tapes between the field ref and the replay assistant (they DO record those conversations, right? If just for “training purposes only” as they say…) I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting these drunken chimps back on a field with stripes and a lanyard.

Otherwise it’s an Ace Rothstein to the County Commissioner situation all over again.

“I’m sorry, but he knew about our getting hit on three big machines in a row and he did nothing about it. That means to me, he was either in on it – or forgive me for saying this – or he was too dumb to see what was going on. Either way, I cannot have a man like that working here.”

This episode only reaffirms my position that virtually all replay, in all sports, is a waste of time at best, and creates various other conflicts of intent, or outright mayhemm at worst. (See, Saturday night). There is the real-time, on the field judgement call of the refs. And then there’s another layer of much slower, tedious judgement by somebody you never see upstairs.

But it’s all judgement! There IS no black and white. Short of the cyclops machine in tennis, nothing in football is purely “binary” in nature. With enough frames per second, and enough angles, you might even see the Virgin Mary in a red-flag challenge.

If I were King Baldo I of sports, I’d round up all the machines and push them off a bridge into a deep and fast moving river.

We now “see” things, that were never meant to be seen. Things that blur “reality” and have leagues and officials scrambling to achieve a pixel-pure perfection that is comically unattainable.

Cameras now see a single pellet of infill from artificial turf if it flies in the air on a toe scrape. What happens when we can see if that single rubber pellet was actually sucked into the air by the nearby whoosh of a shoe, and not contact?

The quality of imaging tech these days is staggering. In our pockets sit phones (phones!) capable of 1080p HD video that records in 120 frames per second! This was barely available to NETWORK television just 15 years ago.

The ability to see more and more, is creating a concurrent need to more specifically codify and classify every possible action, in a sport that has virtually no limits on hypothetical player-ball-field interactions. It’s why the NFL has to write it’s rule book on a dry-erase board these days, because today’s outrage over “isn’t THAT a catch?” demands clarifications and addendums.

All of this time wasting, teeth-gnashing nonsense, while the league says with a pleasant bureaucrat smile, “we’re just trying to get the call right” and “we want the rules to be as unambiguous as possible.”

And yet the bad calls, the botched replays, the unintended consequences are picking up steam, not slowing down. Fans are more unhappy than ever. And some people think this is “working?”

This wormhole is bottomless people. Time to turn around and accept imperfection.




  1. One of the unintended consequences of all this replay is how refs call the game. If something kind of, sort of, maybe looks like a turnover or score they call it as such knowing it will be reviewed. This is contrary to the desired outcome of replay, more accurate calls. No matter how closely you review anything (a document, safety procedures, NFL plays) there will be the occasional mistake; therefore, the less inaccuracies to start with, the less chance something is missed on review.

  2. Your arguments, while nice tries, will never hold up. There are many, many instances where replay does get it right and its what the viewing public wants We see instant replays immediately and vote, good, bad call. That genie will NEVER be put back in the bottle. “Just a game” argument? Not for the billions of dollars spent on “just a game” or sport or jobs, including yours, associated with the industry. While true, ithey are just games and entertainment, athletes have died while playing, not over stupid calls, but playing sports. Sorry, won’t happen, ever. Just because of the error of human judgement used in managing and adjudicating the calls, not the mechanisms involved. Ref lover though you are, it won’t happen they get it wrong, its their fault to own it and its plain for anyone to see, ON REPLAY! . If they don’t like it, then don’t be a ref or ump, simple!

  3. Seems like replay and reviews are embraced by the same well-intentioned people who give us zero-tolerance policies in our schools. In theory, zero-tolerance policies help schools eliminate drugs and other offenses by enforcing rules consistently and without human bias, error or whim. In reality, it works until some honor student has to be suspended because she forgot about two aspirin tablets in her purse.

    Likewise replay proponents think they can right all wrongs while eliminating human error. What they really lose is human judgment which, while not perfect, often is preferable to the absurdities of unintended consequences, Most important, in the Miami-Duke debacle, even prolonged replay review failed to be the prized cure-all for human shortcomings.

    There’s actually a saying that ties to your point – “the perfect is the enemy of the good” – and it applies every single time a game is paused to consult nameless league officials, At least on-field officials have to answer for their ridiculous calls.

  4. I don’t know if this is a “bit” you are doing or not. If it is, stop. Please. Every time you go off on this rant, I turn you off. It’s boring and makes you sound bad.

    To the argument:

    “Replay is the leagues attempt to right an egregious wrong…” blah blah.
    No, replay is an attempt to prevent a wrong from happening.

    “Replay will never get it right 100% of the time, so we might as well end it instead of chasing perfection”
    So, If replay doesn’t work perfectly now, then it’s a total failure?

    Respectfully, you need to give technology a chance to be improved. The first iterations of seat belts left people paralyzed with snapped spines. Thank god we didn’t chuck the whole idea.
    Or maybe more to something nearer and dearer to you… the first RC quad copters had very limited range, were not stabilized reliably and didn’t include 4k video cameras on a gimbal. Total failure… don’t waste your time trying improving it.

    To your point today, Replay didn’t get it wrong, a fallible ref did. The same refs who called it a touchdown in the first place. Replay gave it a chance to be corrected, and those same refs failed again. Don’t blame the camera or the technology or the process. Blame the management.

    The sad part is, if you weren’t intent on keeping up the “bit” as the grumpy old man wanting replay off your front lawn, you could probably come up with a few reasonable ways to improve the system.

  5. I think that they shouldn’t look at slow motion, other than a still frame to see if a line was crossed. The biggest flaw in the system is trying to determine possession in super slow motion. Should only be reviewed at normal speed. 99% of the world knows that the infamous Dez Bryant play last year was a catch – by all means human. But when you get the lawyers involved is where it gets messy. Several plays since then have underlined the point.

  6. I’m with Czabe on this….and I’m also with him that we are in the 20% or so minority…as above comments reflect.

    Matt, you want a few reasonable ways to improve the system? Scrap replay and spend time and money saved (not that NFL is worried about $$$) on simplifying the Talmudic rule book and training better referees. Bringing in new blood and retiring obviously bad ones would help as well.

    Sports, like all human endeavors, is imperfect. I just want to watch a game in a reasonable amount of time and move on with other things that, yes, are more important.

  7. I’m with you on this, Czabe. Replay is killing the game of football. Whenever someone scores, you can’t really get excited about it until the idiots upstairs review the play. It’s a joy-killer.

    Look, the refs are part of the game, fallible as they are. Sometimes calls go your way, sometimes they don’t. That’s life. Slowing the game down to “get it right” takes a lot of the fun out of watching football. How about scrapping replay and holding the officials to a performance standard?


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