The problem with replay is it’s still run by people

The problem with replay is it’s still run by people


Human beings, as always, are fallible.

Human beings, as always, are fallible.
Screenshot: MLB

I am not advocating sports being run by robots or AI. At least not intentionally. The expansion of video review in various sports hasn’t been the salve for controversial calls that we have all hoped. But it’s run by people, which means their faults are still in play. The issue is that whatever sport we’re talking about, the term “clear and obvious” means different things to different people. So unless one person is always manning the various video reviews of every sport, that line is always going to move.

Here’s how the Phillies-Braves game was decided last night in the Philly’s 7-6 win:

At no point does Alec Bohm’s foot hit the plate. It’s not even particularly close. But because whoever was ever in New York was desperate to find some way that Bohm’s foot came within sniffing distance of the plate to go along with the ump’s call, he decided it wasn’t conclusive. It looks conclusive to me. It looks conclusive to you. But not to whoever was on the ones and twos last night for MLB.

And you can’t clearly define it. To me, the only way to come as close as possible is to give replay officials no more than 15 seconds, or at most two angles, to decide on a replay review. Because if you can’t see something in that amount of time and it doesn’t become obvious with a limited amount of viewpoints, it’s not obvious. When you’re watching at home, and a call is clearly wrong, you know within pretty much the first replay you see. But again, that’s not going to work for everyone, and any random official is going to have their own definition of what’s clear and obvious evidence for an overturn. And once you open this up, officials are going to want to be thorough, even if that only means taking a lot of time to go frame-by-frame to still not come to a decision. They’ll fall back on the defense that at least they tried.

It’s obviously not germane to baseball. Just look at how Manchester United lost out on a goal yesterday morning:

This isn’t a foul. And when the ref first saw it, he didn’t think so either. But show him enough replays in slow motion, and it certainly might look like one. And the only reason he was looking at it in slow motion over and over again is because another official thought it was a clear and obvious mistake. Another one might not have. And on it goes.

It’s never going to be perfect, and that’s generally what fans complain about. Or it won’t be perfect fresh out of the box. MLB has had replay around long enough that these kinds of kinks should be ironed out. And yet here we are.

What infuriates fans more is that these reviews take a while to come up with unsatisfactory calls. So take the part out that you can. 15-20 seconds. If it’s not obvious, move one with the call. At least until the system can be perfected. Fans will always debate close calls and infinitesimal differences, but could probably settle on most calls that come up inconclusive in such a limited time.

Or we can all just shut up. But we don’t watch sports to shut up.


That Phillies-Braves game also saw Ronald Acuña beat out a routine grounder to short:

That happened to me when I was playing short in Little League, but the throw when I was 9 years old was much like Odysseus’ journey home.


Other great moments from last night: Charlotte’s Miles Bridges providing a moment that Clint Capela will have to explain to a few generations of his family.

The level of rage in this dunk is simply haunting. But I also have questions about LaMelo Ball’s pink sweatsuit. Or maybe it’s salmon? (it’s obviously salmon). It looks like the most comfortable thing in the world. But it also looks like it belongs in a freshman dorm with whoever is most hungover on a Sunday morning. Then again, Ball is that age, so I guess we’ll have to excuse him.



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