Do NFL Instant Replays Hurt the Game?

Shauna SmithContributor IJanuary 19, 2010

There are two minutes remaining in a highly anticipated playoff football game. One team is down a touchdown. They have made a 75-yard run and with momentum on their side it looks as if they have a chance to tie. However, they are going up against a strong defense and time is their opponent.

The quarterback connects with the star receiver on third down. The ref puts two arms in the air to signal a touchdown. The fans go crazy, the players celebrate, and then they hear a whistle.

Instant replay call by the referees. Did the receiver have control of the ball before his feet went out of bounds? The play is under review.

The fans in the stadium become silent with fear, the wind knocked out of them. Television viewers watch more commercials waiting for the outcome. The report comes from the “mystery men” upstairs: no touchdown.

The offense gears up to try to get a touchdown on fourth and goal. With no timeouts left, it is their only option. But now they are coming in cold, without momentum behind them.

Quarterback does not connect with receiver. He tries to make a run for it with no success. Team loses.

The first instant replay system was adopted in 1986. It was not until 1999 that coaches were given two opportunities to “challenge” the ruling on the field.

If they lose a challenge, they also lose a timeout. The coach can only challenge if he has timeouts and he may not challenge after the two-minute warning. A coach only has until before the next play is underway to throw the red flag for the challenge.

If a review is taken while the clock is running, the clock will be stopped and it will resume once play is started again. When there are two minutes left in the game, or the game is in over time, only the replay assistant sitting in the press box has the authority to make a play under review.

There is no doubt that instant replay affects the game of professional football. The question is, is it a positive effect or a negative one? Or can it be both?

If it is in fact both, does the positive outweigh the negative? Or are they equal? If they are equal, then was there really a point in implementing the instant replay system at all?

Maybe having to take the call for what it was is what made football such a fun game. That was the call and that was it. No dispute.

We all see how it affects the game. A possibly disputable call happens and the team rushes to spike the ball before the coach can throw the flag. The game is slowed down and loses its momentum.

On the other hand, perhaps instant replay has provided us the opportunity to change our “human” mistakes. Even though the referee is the closest official to the players and usually the play, there could have been something they missed. It gives us somewhat of a second chance to “get it right.”

It sure does work well for advertising. On top of the already built-in media timeouts, a few commercials are sometimes thrown into the mix when a call is under review.

Does letting a coach challenge a referee’s call mess with the chain of authority? A coach is there to “coach” while a referee is there to “officiate.”

Most football fans are in it for the fun of the game. Instant replays can take away from that “fun” aspect. However, do we want to risk having a championship game determined on an incorrect call? Maybe or maybe not?

Or maybe, just maybe, we should leave the instant replays for the highlight reel.