DIBIASE: Instant replay ignores tradition and logic

Justin Dibiase

Nobody’s perfect. In the world of sports, however, officials are expected to be just that. Bad calls from officials have always been common. In the past decade, an effort to find ways to patch up referees’ boo-boos has begun. For every major sport, instant replay is becoming the answer to the problem. Major League Baseball was the last major sport to erase its technological “purity” and vote to use instant replay in certain situations during the game. General managers voted 25-5 in favor of installing an instant replay system, and the system was officially implemented on Aug. 28.

The NFL was a pioneer in instant replay. In 1999, it implemented a system of challenges. Head coaches are given two challenges per game. If they are successful in both challenges, they receive a third challenge. If they are unsuccessful, they lose the challenge and a timeout. Almost 10 years later, the replay system has proved to be a success, as many games have been spared bad calls. Other professional sport leagues saw the bar set by the NFL and were forced to match football’s effort.

The NBA and NHL were the first leagues to follow suit by implementing their own replay systems a few years ago. The NBA allows officials to review whether a shot was released before the end of a quarter. The NHL uses replay for several things, the most common being to see if the puck completely crosses the goal line. Additionally, NCAA basketball officials use instant replay to determine if field goals are worth two or three points in times of doubt.

Baseball is the sport that could possibly use replay the most, but the league is known for being staunch in tradition. Replay seemed like a slap in the faces of Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and all of America’s old heroes. What baseball officials forgot was the fact that the “purity” of the game was already soiled by the actions of its athletes that occurred right under their noses.

Many baseball games are decided based upon the subjectivity of umpires, especially the ones behind the plate. However, replay is not used to determine strikes and balls; it is solely used for judging whether a batted ball is a home run or not.

Errors in judgment are a part of baseball. What would the game be without hot-headed managers spitting profanities at umpires? The human element is being taken away from baseball. A replay system in a game of baseball seems as out of place as the Easter Bunny on Christmas.

The sports mentioned are not alone in their new instant replay policies. College football uses replay in a similar manner to the NFL, and professional tennis uses a replay system to allow athletes to challenge questionable calls. Even rugby, rodeo and cricket have their own systems.

Like members of any profession, umpires and officials are supposed to be the best at what they do. Installing this replay system will in turn let someone else do their job. Call it what you will, but this may be step one in outsourcing jobs and tasks to robots. Major League Baseball takes in over $6 billion in revenue per year, but it is still finding new ways to save a dollar. A simple solution to the replay issue would be for MLB to assign two more umpires to stand on the two foul lines and judge fair or foul and home run-or-not calls; this, however, costs more money in the end – a definite no-no for the head honchos.

There are so many variables in the game of baseball – umpires, rocks in the infield and gusting winds to name a few. These are some of the things that give baseball the dramatic moments . Why should umpires be left off of the list? They should be subjected to the quality of their work. If an architect builds a bad house, he or she loses his job. If an umpire makes bad calls, he should not have instant replay save his job.

When will the technology boom in sports end? Will balls and strikes be called by a computer some day? Baseball has already developed machines that determine balls and strikes as a way to critique umpires. Will the NFL and NBA use replay to determine penalties and fouls committed by players? At some point, officials are going to need to find a “happy place” for their respective sport. That “happy place” will allow technology to aid the officials in making decisions but still give them overarching power.

The future is always seen as a place for a better, more efficient world. However, some things just aren’t made to evolve. Baseball needs to keep its roots and forget about keeping up with the Joneses.


Justin DiBiase is a senior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].