The use of instant replay in sports

Are video reviews and instant replays good for sports?

The implementation of instant replays in sports has been a subject of debate for fans and leagues since the technology was first industrialized for sports in the 1960s. Today, every major league uses video reviews to varying degrees, along with coaches’ challenges, to aid officials in making the right calls.

As technology continues to evolve, video replays will only get better at deducing what the human eye cannot, and reduce the number of controversial outcomes in games. Supporters of instant replay will justify the need for review by pointing to key moments in sports where the wrong call stood, and a winner was mistakenly crowned.

The most notable recent example came in the 2018 NFC Championship game in the National Football League (NFL), when the Los Angeles Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints 26-23 in overtime.

While post-game banter should have been focused on the Rams’ achievement in reaching their first Super Bowl final since 2001, the outcome of the match was mired in controversy following an unpenalized pass interference committed by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman on Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis.

The dramatic play would later be notoriously dubbed the “NOLA No-call,” and the NFL would respond by making pass interference reviewable in its future seasons.

Nowadays, all games are officiated with the extensive use of instant replay reviews, whether it’s the deciding minutes of a championship game or an unassuming regular season matchup.

In theory, minimizing the number of referee-related mistakes is a notion worth supporting, but not all sports fans and athletes are in favour of the current replay system. Gabriel Guindi, who co-hosts CJLO’s sports talk show the Starting Rotation, is one such enthusiast who cannot get behind the excessive use of video reviews in the National Hockey League (NHL).

“Hockey probably does it the best compared to the other major sports leagues,” Guindi said. “But most of the time it does more damage than good. They might review a play for a few minutes and, if anything, I’m left more confused than when I saw it live.”

Louis-Vincent Gauvin, a second-year guard for the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team, is an avid fan of the National Basketball Association (NBA). When the league made the transition towards more reviews by adding coach’s challenges in 2019, Gauvin worried it would have an undesirable effect on the quality of games.

“Basketball is at its best when the play doesn’t stop and there is a constant flow,” Gauvin said. “Stoppages for replay reviews and coaches’ challenges can ruin the natural rhythm of the game.”

Gauvin believes that the intention to review close calls makes sense, so long as they can be accomplished in a timely manner.

“The referees’ mistakes are part of the sport, so I can accept incorrect calls here and there if it means preserving the natural momentum and pace of the game,” Gauvin said.

While instant review can prolong games and make them tough to digest for some spectators, it doesn’t stop the NBA from achieving peak entertainment value, Gauvin believes, thanks in large part to the sheer amount of talent in the league today.


Pros and Cons: Is video reviewing ruining the game?

Graphic by Phil Waheed.

PROS: Waiting on the right call
by Gregory Todaro

Sports are deeply ingrained in cultures around the world. However, the world has changed significantly since the beginning of sports, and it’s no wonder sports have evolved too. Sports are played at a faster pace than ever before, where players kick harder, shoot more accurately, and make the referee’s life much more difficult.

While these changes certainly make sports more interesting to watch, referees are having a harder time coping with the evolution of the game. Officiating sports was already a difficult task, but the quickness at which sports are played makes it harder to make accurate calls. One of the best ways referees can improve their ability to run a game is through the use of video reviewing, which has already been implemented into several sports, the most popular being football and hockey.

Despite numerous critics, video reviewing is an improvement on officiating. As a former soccer referee I know firsthand how fast-paced a game can be, even at a high school level.

I remember one incident during a high school game where a player took a shot that bounced off the post and rolled along the goal line before being scooped up by the goalkeeper. I was positioned directly on the goal line, but even then I couldn’t be completely sure the ball crossed the line. I made the best call possible, though I was not entirely sure.

The pursuit of accuracy is something referees have to go through every game. No official in the world of sports is perfect, and video reviewing allows for officials to make accurate calls.

Video reviewing has benefited the game as a whole. It has helped officials make the right calls and is keeping sports honest and accurate. Video reviewing should be used at the professional level, especially for quick sports.

People throw around the term “necessary evil” when talking about video review. While fans are concerned that reviews are time consuming and disrupt the flow of the game, the right call is always worth the wait. When you look at other game stoppages, such as TV timeouts, they take about as much time and contribute nothing to the game.

There are many incidents that have been controversial and that have brought up many serious questions about the lack of video review in sports. The examples are endless, some more serious than others, and they create a large unfairness in many sports.

While the technology isn’t perfect, it’s the best system we have available. Eventually technology will allow balls and pucks with interior sensors to report information in real time to officials. In the meantime, video reviewing is vital to ensure a game is played and judged as accurately as possible. After all, referees are only human.

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CONS: Don’t fix a good thing
by George Menexis

I live in the past, I’ll admit it. Although I admire progress, there are some things that shouldn’t be changed or tampered with. Indecisive calls in sports are one of those things.

Video reviewing is ruining the world of sports; however, there’s still a chance to escape it. Although I do understand why many admirers would find it an attractive solution to indecisive calls in sports, it’s also seriously interferes with the entertainment factor that each and every sport has to offer.

Jack Todd is a sports columnist for the Montreal Gazette and agrees wholeheartedly that endless video review is ruining sports.

“It’s the worst trend in sports, worse than Gary Bettman and his neverendum lockouts,” wrote Todd.

“They keep pulling more tricks from the bottomless bin of technology, but the result is no better than it ever was. Nine times out of 10, the video replay exercise is either inconclusive or the officials still get it wrong.”

Why spend countless hours and piles of money to provide video technology that will do little to ensure the fairness of a score? Do not think I’m ignorant. I do recognize that some plays are simply impossible for the referees to judge appropriately. However, for the sake of the game, it is a compromise sports fans need to make in order to ensure that the passion for sports is kept intact.

As a sports fan, I recognize specific allures that are common in every sport — the competitiveness, the passion, the fans. However, this also includes the indecisiveness, the wrong calls, and the game changers. These are moments that have marked sports history since the very beginning, and this is also what video-reviewing is getting rid of.

“But the real problem is that replay reviews have drained all the drama from the game,” wrote Todd. “You can’t jump up to cheer a great play anymore, because you know you’re going to have to wait 15 minutes for the video review.”

“It’s hurting hockey, where a goal is not a goal until it’s reviewed for an hour or so by the war room in Toronto.”

That’s the serious dilemma that many sports will face in the coming years. The battle for accuracy against passion. In my books, passion wins by a mile. There is no need for video review in sports. If anything, it’ll just drive more fans away.

The mistakes made by referees have created a controversial history in sports that still have people reacting emotionally when mentioned. That is what sports are all about. That’s the tradition; and, in my opinion, it can’t be ruined. It’s ingrained in the world of sports and needs to stay there for years to come. The referee’s call stands, and that’s that.


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