Steinberg: Time to review NFL's instant replay

Steinberg Says

December 22, 2012|By Leigh Steinberg

The National Football League is America's passion. Dominating the top 10 of Nielsen television ratings, estimates are that 180 million people watched part of a game last week. There are packed stadiums, fantasy football fanatics and bettors.

The NFL is our collective obsession.

This was the marriage made in heaven for contemporary appetites for quick bursts of action in tightly contained segments, made for television and every platform of content supply. But the pace and immediacy are being severely impacted by endless instant replays and late calls. And the sport is starting to drag.

Scoring plays carry a thrilling ending. There is a buildup and development to a long pass play, a dramatic return, or a brutal struggle by a runner to score. The player dives over a pylon or breaks free into the end zone and the in-stadium crowd and television viewers erupt in exultation or frustration. It is a moment of extreme excitement that separates the sport from others.


But, not anymore.

Every touchdown is reviewed by a team of supervisors up in a booth in the stadium. None of the process is visible on the screen or in person. There is an endless and boring delay. The excitement is replaced by uncertainty. And then comes the announcement: "upon further review," which is disconnected to the play and anti-climactic.

This destroys the immediacy inherent in every scoring play. These delays give defenses a subtle edge over offenses. They can break the rhythm of a quarterback's play and destroy momentum, while giving the defense extra time to rest.

Turnovers are impactful moments in NFL games. A frenetic scramble for a fumbled football is untangled to reveal which player and which team has recovered.

Since turnovers can completely alter momentum and the course of a game, they lead to collective reaction. A key interception is usually exciting. Not anymore. The play is reviewed.

Young men turn old, autumn turns to winter, and still there is no decision. And virtually every pass reception or incompletion seems to result in an interference call.

On pass play after pass play either the wide receiver or the defensive back seems unable to conform to the standard of legal conduct and flag after flag after flag ensues. This destroys the immediacy and flow of most pass plays. It is impossible for a fan to display emotion without the referee altering the result. There is no certainty.


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