After further review, instant replay stinks

I stood on the Butte High sideline, straddling the goal line trying to see if Butte High had won or lost the 2012 semifinal game against Great Falls Russell.

CMR quarterback Josh Horner headed toward the line with enough steam that it looked like he would score the 2-point conversion in overtime to send the Rustlers the Class AA state title game instead of the Bulldogs.

Billy Robinson, though, stepped up and met Horner, stopping the Rustlers just short of the goal line — maybe.

Like everyone at Naranche Stadium that Saturday afternoon, I watched the referee on the other side — the guy who had the best view in the house — for a moment that seemed like an eternity. The noise became louder and louder as the crowd realized that the referee’s arms were not raising.

Then the crowd rushed the field to celebrate knowing that the game was indeed over and the Bulldogs would play for their first state title in 21 years. It was perhaps the greatest moment in history of Butte High football — until six days later.

Had that game been in the NFL or major college football, though, it wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting.

First, Robinson would made the monumental tackle. The referee would have ruled him short. Then the crowd would have had to sit and wait for another eternity as the replay officials went over and over the play from every angle to see if the call should stand or be overturned.

If the call stood, the crowd would still rush the field, but it wouldn’t be the same. The moment of spontaneity that made it so special would have been lost forever.

Replay has long help up great moments in football. After every great catch, you have to temper your excitement until after you see the replay to confirm if he made the catch.

Until you can be sure that the receiver went to the ground and held onto the ball throughout the stupid “process of the catch,” you don’t know whether to cheer or not.

In football, that was bad enough. In baseball, instant replay is downright painful.

After every bang-bang play at first base we now have to watch the manager of the team the call went against walk slowly to the umpire to discuss the call. Then the umpire and manager position themselves so the manager can look into his dugout to get the thumps up or thumbs down to challenge from his assistants.

If they get the thumps up, the manager challenges and the umpires go to the head sets for what seems like a 50/50 shot of getting the call right upon further review.

Really, they have been clearly getting a lot of calls wrong after taking up more time than the average manager argument and ejection.

This year’s expansion of instant replay really is the worst move made by baseball since it decided to expand to Tampa Bay.

Everyone would like to see every play called correctly, so I have no problem with reviewing an occasional call to see if a home run really did clear the fence in fair territory. I’m not totally unreasonable.

I do have a problem with reviewing every close call in every game. It takes too long, and it interrupts the flow and the rules of the game that were established before anyone heard the name Babe Ruth.

The way the replay system is set up, the cost greatly outweighs the benefit.

Since I was a young boy one of my favorite moment in sports was watching the final out of the World Series — no matter which team won. I always loved watching the winning team pile on each other in celebration.

This year, I can see a ground ball to deep short stop. The fielder stabs the ball and fires to first to barely nail the runner to end for the clinching out of the World Series.

Instead of rushing together to celebrating in the middle of the infield, though, the players will all turn to the screen on the scoreboard and wait. And wait. And wait.

When the play is upheld after a 5-minute delay, the team still will celebrate and spray each other with beer and Champaign.

But the great moment of spontaneity will be lost forever.

Even when it works, replay takes away from those great moments. The Music City Miracle can’t hold a candle to the Immaculate Reception because we had to wait through 10 minutes of replays to see if the former held up.

The Immaculate Reception might not have withstood a replay review in today’s NFL, and  —unless you’re a Raiders fan — that would have been a shame.

Just like it would have been a shame to see Billy Robinson’s tackle overturned at Naranche Stadium.

It is highly doubtful CMR had anybody who could have kicked a 46-yard field goal to beat Bozeman six days later.

—Bill Foley, who will still not recognize the outcome of the 1989 Instant Replay Game in Green Bay, writes a column that appears on on Tuesdays. Email him at Follow him at 2 comments

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  • Neil buckley
    April 22, 2014, 7:11 am

    Billy, Neil Buckley here. Just want you to know that I read your column religiously. With each edition I anxiously await the last couple of lines to see how it all comes together…like a state winning 46 yard field goal!

  • Ben
    April 22, 2014, 8:43 am

    The problem is, the umpires suck more than ever. Watch the average game and you will see. I was all against replay until watching a Yankee Rays game over the weekend. The calls were horrible. They called Brett Gardner out when the outfielder clearly caught the ball off a bounce on the wall. In the old system, that call stands. I agree there has to be some limits put to this and hope they can figure that out otherwise we will soon see 15 hour games as they review ball and strikes.


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