The Day Replay Died


Today was a glorious day for the Replay Resistance movement. The oppressive regime of “rules nerds” and machines suffered several humiliating defeats in front of the eyes of Football America.

In short, I have never been more sure of our eventual victory. One day, “Instant Replay” will be voted out of the NFL. Mark my words.

The people who will scoff at me on this, are the same ones who scoffed at my notion that replay got almost as many calls “wrong” as they fixed. Even those die hards are starting to recalibrate their preconceived notions about replay’s actual value in making our football games more good and fair and right and yeah…. better. Unhgh! Take that!

Whatever. Nerds.

Let’s start with a basic premise few people want to even ask, much less answer: “Who says every call has to be right?” Since when has ANY sports fan of more than 5 minutes in their life thought that officials dont fuck up at least a handful of times every game, in every sport that involves a referee?

These are, after all, just GAMES people. For our enjoyment! Was the ending of the Steelers-Patriots game FUN for anybody? Sure, Pats fans were HAPPY, but that’s different from it being FUN.

They should add the Jesse James play and eventual reversal to the end of that DirecTV commercial about people who get excited about stupid little shit in life happening to them. (Wet grocery bags? YESSSS!)

The reason we “don’t know what a catch is anymore” is because the league has tried to keep writing the rulebook to accomodate microscopic advances in replay technology. The notion of “surviving the ground” on catches did not exist in the 1980’s. A catch was akin to pornography: you know it when you see it.

The league will likely try to keep writing and re-writing the rules to prevent these disasters, but guess what: it’ll fail. Because the level of video precision and techno-prowess we have now, is the WORST it’ll ever be in our lifetimes. It’ll start getting so good, your head will hurt trying to figure out where does a player’s “shin” begin to figure out if he was “down?” You’ll be staring at 3 fucking little crumblet’s of rubber turf infill that flew in the air, and have to ask yourself…. “did his TOE do that, or was is the WHOOSH of his foot flying by?”

I am not kidding. This is coming. It’s only a matter of time.

The NFL requires (for speed purposes) to use very CRUDE judgements on all kinds of things -holding, pass interference, spotting the football et. al. – because to microscopically try to make all of these calls “right” would expand games to 5 hours or more.

So now that replay only expands games by about 10-15 minutes, the perfectionist ninnies who like it, say it’s worth it because – GASP! “what if a bad call determines who gets into the playoffs or stays home!? Coaches could get fired!”).

Coaches get fired anyway! And bad calls routinely steal games from teams without any benefit of a video review. All… the… time!

Flaws, holes, and illogical double standards abound. Had James caught the ball legally, but the refs on the field ruled it incomplete, the Steelers would have had to challenge it because only “scoring plays” are automatically reviewed, not “almost scoring plays.” Which they couldn’t because they didn’t have a timeout left! But wait, they didn’t have to, because the league steps in to review all “close” plays in the final 2 minutes of each half. But what if the league didn’t think it was a “close” play? The Steelers might have stood around waiting for a replay to come, while the playclock drained out to zero causing a delay of game.

Worst of all, replay has ruined the moment in sports. And honestly, the moment is all that fucking matters. The moment of pure joy (or agony) when your team plunges the dagger of a game winning touchdown into your hated opponents back.

Now “the moment” has been reduced to sitting in a doctors office waiting to hear the results of a blood test. Oooh. Fun.

And as for the other brutal reversal today in Carolina, all I can say is that call was total bullshit. A microscopic assumption of one asscheek coming down barely inbounds before the other one landing 8 feet on the white line, why that’s the stuff of pure imagination. Alberto Riveron must have an imaginary friend who walks with him to work. A pink fluffy elephant named “Mr. Stomps” that he talks to on the elevator ride up to the TV lined mancave in downtown Manhattan from which he decides whether you just wasted 3 hours of your life with a totally horseshit call.

And Riveron is never wrong! Have you noticed that? It’s like your fucking wife is officiating every game in the NFL now! He stood by the ridiculous Austin Sefarian-Jenkins overturn, as well as the time Zach Miller nearly lost his goddamn leg! 

To all of the technocrats and “fair-ies” who still defend the value of replay, turn in your red flags now and you shall be shown mercy. To everybody else, you better dig in. Because your days are numbered.

The Replay Resistance is growing, and our day of glory is certain. It’s just a matter of time.


  1. Keep chasing that squirrel. I don’t personally care that much about replay, but don’t use the Jesse James play as your example. The ball touched the ground. Replay got it right. That was a fantastic game.

    • And by the way, Romo was entertaining as hell. The guy is doing a great job from where I sit. I loved the call where Brady almost ran it in from the 4, then pulled up and fired a dart to Cooks. Romo says “Brady thought about running it in, but then remembered he’s 40.” Great call, great spur of the moment sense of humor and awareness. Like hanging out watching the game with a buddy who just knows an eff ton more about football than you do.

      • Romo is ok, would be great if he would stop calling every god damn play before it happens! He must be a joy to sit with watching a movie he’s already seen but you haven’t.

    • If you feel replay “got it right” because you assume ball must have (touched) the ground… then you are the “nerd” Czabe’s is talking about.

    • The point isn’t that replay got it right – the point is that replay is held up as the way to get calls right but you will NEVER get a truly “fair outcome” until you replay all calls (holding, pass interference, spotting the ball, etc.) to get the whole thing right . And nobody wants to do that. In other words, how many times does that announcer mention “Oh, it looks like they missed a holding call there” on a critical play or even a touchdown? It doesn’t even matter because you can’t review those. But on reviewable calls, they get down to the gnat’s ass on detail. Where’s the fairness in that?

    • He obviously caught it first though, which logically means that it has to have been a catch. You can’t tug in a ball to your chest without actually catching it first. Otherwise it would just be a hand movement, which it wasn’t. So it was definitely, indubitably a catch. It just wasn’t a catch according to the ever evolving NFL rule that changes every year.

      Plus, he wasn’t touched. And he didn’t give himself up. So he could have gotten down on the grass and dragged the ball back and forth across the turf for all I care. It’s still a live ball and therefore a TD. And they called it a TD on the field. And the “review” took like ten minutes. If a review takes ten minutes, it isn’t conclusive. And it has to be conclusive to overturn a call.

      I don’t care what you say. The fix was in, as always with the stupid NFL.

    • As I mention below … The ground can’t cause a fumble but it disqualifies what is otherwise a sure catch – that inconsistency is stupid and should be obvious to the rule-makers. But the NFL is governed by idiots ruining the league.

  2. I think this whole mess with ‘what is a catch?’ came directly from the Calvin Johnson debacle in 2010. NFL refs screwed the pooch on that and instead of admitting it, they began to rewrite and massage ‘what is a catch? to match what they’d called. Cut to Dez Bryant catch 2-3 years later. MORE justification of a really bad call. And it just keeps spiraling out of control.
    I remember when the rule was simply “did he have possession when his knees/feet came down?” Now, GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

  3. Some flaws in your argument, if I may…

    You say not every call is correct anyway… OK, that’s going to be the case then either way according to your logic, surely. Why are strongly better off one way or the other?

    This is NOT “just a game” I’m afraid. I find this point to be somewhat naive. To your or I, of course, we are watching games. But the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry. To everybody directly involved from players, officials, league office, this is not a game. This is a job and a business. It is the NFL’s job to find a way to make the games better officiated, and replay undoubtedly helps them do that.

    • You are right. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, but it is also entertainment. If they are so focused on having the “right” outcome then they should review everything. Jobs and legacies are lost on the “non call” as well. Look at the end of the Ravens/Niners Super Bowl where Crabtree was mugged in the end zone. That was a “non call” that some people agreed with because of the moment. Why couldn’t that be reviewed? Chances are they punch it in if they get the penalty. Jim Harbaugh and Colin K. are Super Bowl Champs. Completely different legacy. Let’s review everything if it’s about getting it right and not about entertainment.

  4. First it was you have to “make a football move.” Now it’s you have to “survive the ground.” What the hell does that mean? Make no mistake, the idiots in the NFL offices will come up with something else. I used to like replay, but over the last couple of season, I have slowly come over to Czabe’s side. It takes the fun out of the game. After the long pass from Big Ben to get the Steelers down inside the 10 I said, “Are you not entertained?” It was great. And I’m not a fan of either of those teams. I’m a Saints fan. I was just enjoying a good game between two good teams. Then the end came totally ruined it. So much so I didn’t watch the Sunday night game. I can only imagine how Steeler fans felt.

  5. The big problem that the replay-ites never counted on is that the process actually ADDS uncertainty to everything, instead of decreasing it. This uncertainty has destroyed the rule book and the quality of the officiating corps.

    Bottom line–the game was never meant to be refereed at a microscopic level.

  6. Steve, your comment here is dead on target: “Worst of all, replay has ruined the moment in sports. And honestly, the moment is all that matters. The moment of pure joy (or agony) when your team plunges the dagger of a game winning touchdown into your hated opponents back.”

    Replay is draining the life out of both college and NFL. I’ve only watched Skins games this year thanks to the politics injected into the NFL, and now not watched them for 2 weeks. I am considering cancelling my college team’s season tickets [25+ years], games are too long and reply is has, as you perfectly say, reduced the moment “to sitting in a doctors office waiting to hear the results of a blood test.” I will be using that. And it isn’t “instant”, either.

  7. Full Disclosure – Steelers Fan … but I like to think I’m objective most of the time.

    Here’s the problem… replay has gotten to the point where it LOOKS like someone is deciding the outcome of games that isn’t in the stadium. It LOOKS like on important plays, someone in New York decides what happened and it gives the APPEARANCE of impropriety. It’s getting closer and closer to the level of conspiracy theory that floats around the NBA and it is making it no fun to watch games. I’m not saying that things are fixed, I’m saying it’s easy to see why people think that.

    In this instance it took an awfully long time for a decision to me made. Real long. I’d have to watch the game again, but it was 5 or 6 different replays of Nance and Romo talking about how great a catch it was and that he was definitely across the line before they realized that the officials must be looking for something else. Then Romo’s “aha” moment of “are they checking to see if it was a catch?” Then time for 6 or so more replays from different angles before Romo decides that the ball moves (As an aside, the ball can move, he’s not out of bounds) and says that over and over. The fact that it takes that long and that many replays to overturn a call seems to indicate a strong desire to find a reason to over turn it. And that’s what is frustrating.

    Now, as a fan, I see the ball move. I even see his left hand come off of it and eventually he’s holding it with the back of his left hand. What I don’t see from any angle is the ball touch the ground. I see a blurry pic of his right hand disappearing under the ball, appearing to keep it off the ground. The ball moves, his hands move, but I never see the ball on the ground. I think if you are going to rule that the “Catch didn’t survive the ground” (what???) that you ought to at least have a picture of the ball on the ground.

    Finally, the NFL needs to rethink it’s rules a little if a guy, any guy, can catch a call, pull it to his chest as he’s landing on his knees and then lunge to the goal line, and have it be call an incomplete. Clearly had control (pulled and lunged), clearly was in the field of play, and clearly crossed the goal line. Clearly a touchdown. Until someone in New York decided it wasn’t.

    • That is the best post I have read in a long time. This is another reason why I can’t watch a full NFL game anymore. The replay stoppages are insane. They pay Mike Pierra SEVEN figures to be official replay interpreter for us at home, like we are watching Court TV and F. Lee Bailey is giving us the legal rundown! This is not a sport, it’s an arbitration hearing.

      Also, if the Steeler receiver was touched before he lunged for the goal line, then he would have been down because his knee was on the ground. So if he lunges and the ball moves a little, but we don’t actually see clear proof that the ball hits the ground, then it is incomplete. This kind of insanity is turning off a lot of people. Mix that in with coaches like Andy Reid using all of his challenges by half time to argue 3 yard gains. It’s enough to make you feel like you are completely wasting your time watching this crap.

  8. So long as we have controversy we can have great arguments that last a lifetime. Replay doesn’t change that but it does take away from the moment. Unlike life, I want to be able to hold grudges. And that includes grudges against Referees. Who am I to be angry at now – the process? Screw that. I want blood!!!

  9. My issue isn’t replay per se (although replay is the great enabler of this absurdity), but rather the whole treatment of what is a catch as some kind of cosmological/how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin argument. If 90 out 100 patrons a local sports bar think it’s a catch, then it’s a damn catch. Come to think of it, the NFL could probably poll a randomly chosen Hooters quicker than Alberto can make up his mind anyway.

    Agree with Chris above about Romo. I doubt that anybody misses Phil Sims, especially Nance.

  10. The NFL is the General Motors of sports. Both were once dominant in market share but consumers got burned too many times and now their market share is in a slow, continued decline.

  11. Is it possible the NFL is purposely trying to destroy their product? Given the insane contract just granted to the Ginger Hammer … I would have to say yes.

  12. I’m ready to kiss it goodbye mainly because it takes way too damn long to decide and secondly because the most impactful plays aren’t even reviewable. If there should be any unreviewable play it’s “what is a catch” – that should just be an eye test plain and simple. Did it look like he caught it or not? It’s that simple. The worst part of all of this is the NFL insanity on “what is a catch” has bled into the college game too. I’ll never ever get over the Wisconsin Badgers losing a game because a receiver caught the ball in the end zone, took 3 steps in bounds in the end zone, and then lost the ball out of bounds so it was ruled incomplete “by NFL standards”. GTFO with that noise. I’ll forever be sour about it.

  13. I am with Czabe on replay, even though I’m a Pats fan & of course happy with that outcome — correct under the rules as they stand. One point re “the moment,” which I’m totally in agreement on. Especially at the end of games, when “the booth” takes over, it is complete momentUM killing. Those of us who saw Montana’s game-winning drives (him & Brady are 1a & 1, IMO), where hit hit the sideline down the field, know that could NEVER happen now — “New York” would review every play! (Related, don’t you love hearing Ernie Johnson saying “Chelsea” in baseball?) And what if it’s 10 degrees in Green Bay? At night? It’s total bullshine.

    Czabe is totally right about bad non-reviewable calls too. The Pats got hosed (gasp!) by a cheap, but critical, hands to the face late against Carolina which cost them the game. So yes, tinker with the catch or other rules, but as long as fans are blinded by technology, this is going to keep happening. And cost your, or my team, next time.

  14. Not following this one. One of the problems you will face now compared to in the 70s, 80s and even 90s is that technology used to cover the game is so good that you can’t really hide mistakes. Forget about broadcast replay; people can do that themselves now. Everyone and his grandmother will know that a mistake was made within ten seconds, yet we have to somehow keep the ref in the dark? Even if you banned replay on pain of death, someone would stream refereeing calamities to the jumbo dude in the stadium and he would put it up there for the crowd to boo at. Or everyone would know it the next day, when the game will have been carefully re-watched, dissected and turned into gifs.

    Unless you want to return to 1970s visual technology across the board, this is an unworkable concept. Replay is the least if our problems when it comes to football. The anal obsession with every inch and the ever developing confusion about rules that used to be simple is also a response to the technology changing, not just to replay. We simply see a lot more of the games now than we used to.

    Anyway, it will be hard for me to take you seriously on this issue until you watch all NFL games from now on on this television set:–retro-furniture-wooden-furniture.jpg

    If you shy away from this you will eventually realize that knowing that a mistake has been made and not being able to see it in slow motion replay on TV would drive you absolutely crazy in about twenty seconds. I give you until basically the first time the Skins lose a game to an obvious refereeing mistake that you were forbidden to watch on replay. Exclusively using a 1970s TV set to consume football is basically the only way this is not going to be a super annoying problem for you. Of course you’ll have to throw your modern phone away, and your computer too. No cheating allowed! Otherwise you are going to see it eventually, and be super-annoyed.

    I like high horses. But I think you should climb down off this one. It doesn’t look dependable to me. And what is that foam around its mouth? I didn’t even know horses could get rabies.

    • You state “Everyone and his grandmother will know that a mistake was made within ten seconds” but we already know that – even for holding, pass interference, and other non-reviewable calls. These types of calls also decide games. The idea is to understand that mistakes will be made, hope they even out and take it for what it is. You will never have a truly fair outcome until you review every play – and nobody wants to do that.

      • No, I agree with that. It’s what I do myself and why refereeing errors don’t even register anymore. I am totally zen about it because it goes both ways.

        I just disagree with Czabe’s claim that replay is to blame for everything. I think it’s visual technology and the viewing options available to the public. In the 70s you were completely dependent on the TV replay. If they did not show something in replay you would probably never see it again. But now you can tevo the entire game and slow-mo your way through every single play in your own living room. And there are streams, gifs, multiple angles, more cameras etc. No hiding mistakes now, replay or not. And that gets people riled up, demanding better officiating and so on. Not everyone can be as zen as you and I.

  15. Last night on PTI, Kornheiser said it wasn’t a catch and that replay did it’s job and the rules are fine, they are what they are and have been that way since 2008 (?), but then in another segment about using folded paper to determine a first down he says it’s a round leather ball spotted by a person who saw it from an angle, it’s not a precise science, get over it.

    Without knowing (I think) he pretty much summed up what’s wrong with replay. It’s trying to bring precision to a game (GAME!) that is judged by fallible men. Whether you want to admit it or not, replay is a complete failure because even after a play is reviewed, people still argue if it got it right or not. We used to argue the play on the field, now we argue the replay result, all they’ve done is create a new place to argue the point. I’d rather have memories of the play the ref missed than of getting screwed out of the win by the NFL.

  16. All of the hand-wringing….the NFL has become “sports entertainment” minus any of the curtain peel-back. I wouldn’t go so far to say outcomes are “pre-determined” but it’s entirely obvious that certain teams in certain situations are “required” to do additional things to win games. Whether it’s the last-gasp-drive-holding penalty killer or the drive-saving “illegal contact”….the NFL officials have become very adept at NBA-style officiating in order to allow most games to come down to the final few plays. The NFL is a lot of things….but is a cash cow first and foremost. And they’ve perfected (up until recently) the “keep the audience” theme. It’s now reversing course, thankfully, and the comedy that went on this past Sunday hopefully will continue losing viewership and thus making the league adjust it’s product for the better.

  17. The replay rules are terrible about what they can and can’t look at and how long they can look at it. If they have to keep a replay system (which I think is a given), they have to drastically change it.
    You get two looks at the play Mr. Replay Official, angle 1 then angle 2. If it isn’t clear from those two looks, looking specifically at the area of contention, then the play stands as called.
    Last night in the Tampa game, there was a perfect example of this. TB ran a short screen pass but the receiver’s knee was down when he caught the ball (and was touched), but no one on the field noticed this. One look at the replay and they reversed the call because it was obvious. They didn’t have to sync up three different angles and look for single blades of grass (also is grass the ground or is the dirt the ground? when has the league defined “ground”).

    While we are talking about replay, why do the networks give the win percent of the coaches when challenging? Shouldn’t they talk more about the overturn rate for the officiating crew? That’s who is really being evaluated during a challenge.

  18. The most profound and persuasive thing Czabe said was “They stole our moment”.
    Sports is about incredible actions, turn arounds, amazing plays. It is about those moments.
    We all saw a touchdown! EVEN if it had been upheld, the delay after the most exciting, consequential plays to check the replay diminishes the game!

    I don’t remember the Redskins records each year when I was growing up, but I remember the spectacular plays, the moments. And when the refs arms went up it WAS a touchdown, you didn’t have to wait to celebrate.

    As for the specific moment, the NFL not only negated a go ahead touchdown, but an opportunity to see Tom Brady try to go the length of the field in the 50 seconds or so left. I think almost every real fan would have rather see that.

  19. I share Czabe’s frustration with replay but disagree it will ever be removed. And he’s right about all the subjective calls (PI, holding, etc.) that affect the game as much as the “replay” plays.
    A few other notes … When a play is being reviewed sometimes slowly it down gives a false sense of what/how the play transpired. Some plays are best reviewed in full speed.
    It’s almost funny how the league has twisted the concept of a catch so that no one really knows anymore. In a pass-happy league, that fact sure doesn’t help. What’s missing from defining a catch is a time aspect. Everyone used to know what a catch was – full control for a moment of time with the 2-feet or other body part in bounds. Then it got modified with making a football move and later maintaining control through contact with the ground. But if the ground can’t cause a fumble, then why the inconsistency with ground contact disqualifying an otherwise sure catch? makes no sense.
    No amount of replay can square with the imprecision of spotting the ball and the sideline chains. Usually the refs are very good but often they seem to be off by a foot or more. Then you have the chain guys trying to square their marking 50′ away or more. When it’s time to measure for a 1st down, between the chain guys being off by a few inches (or more) and the ref’s spot off by a few inches (or more), it’s a total crapshoot on the close calls.
    Lastly, Czabe’s most important point is undeniable – that replay sucks the joy and energy out of the game. Considering that replay still gets too many calls wrong, it really should be sacked (but it won’t).

  20. You forgot to mention the potential for the league (or an individual) to influence the outcome of games via the NY replay booth. All it takes is one fanboy planting the seed of doubt in the ear of the on-field referee. Some have indicated that a pro-Patriots bias has been seen several times this year, potentially winning them several home playoff games.

  21. Jessie caught the ball pulled it toward his body and then reached for the goal line, IT WAS A DAMN CATCH. Hell I’m a dolphins fan, try that for a few decades, sure you might think that would make me hate the Pats but with me its always the Jets I can’t stand.


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