Every morning, you awake to the dumbest time in history. The leader of the free world held a press conference last week to say he’s not a moron, two days before announcing a new date for his Fake News awards show. I watched a guy help a friend guide his car into a tight parking spot on icy asphalt not from the sidewalk but while standing between the cars and nearly getting his legs pinned. And NFL referee Jeff Triplette got to call a playoff game.
Sports, even in this politically charged climate, are meant to be an escape. It's foolish to believe we can get away from all the issues that plague society, as the athletes we’re watching live in that society, too, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask sports to help us escape stupidity. Not completely—give me Bills fans lighting themselves on fire and jumping through tables every Sunday—but we should at least have a baseline agreement that certain logical things make sports better.
One of those things is video review, specifically in football. It’s not perfect. It’s flawed. It can and should be improved. At the same time, we should all be in agreement that it’s a necessary safety net for a sport played on a surface that’s 120 yards in length and 55 yards in width and officiated by seven part-time (for the most part) employees whose average age falls in the same demographic of people who enjoy CBS dramas.
At some point over this wild card weekend, that argument went out the window.
I don’t want you to think this is a straw man, because it sounds like one. “You’re arguing for video replay to correct mistakes and you’ll have me believe there are people that want to get rid of replay?” Yes! And they’re not Twitter eggs or the 19-year-old editor of a college newspaper in Kenosha. These are high-profile, legitimate football people!
ESPN’s Tim Cowlishaw wants to live without replay for a year! A year! A full fucking season! NFL announcer Kevin Burkhardt of Fox thinks replay is the worst thing happen to the NFL and MLB! The worst thing! Sports Illustrated’s Peter King quote tweeted Burkhardt’s tweet in agreement! Turtleneck enthusiast and former NFL player Danny Kanell hates replay, too! Even NBC’s Al Michaels griped about it during a game!
What seems to bother a lot of people is the inability to fully enjoy a play as it happens because it might be subject to review. You know what? Too fucking bad! The play happened near the sideline so maybe we will look it again. I’m sorry you can’t be immediately gratified by a third-and-nine completion for ten yards near midfield and must wait a few extra seconds to feel a temporary mild high about a sports play that you will forget about in an hour anyway. Banning video review so you can savor a play for an extra 15 seconds before the next play pushes that play out of your memory bank seems equal parts selfish and obtuse.
Doesn’t that sound like some millennial bullshit? “I want my catch now!” But it’s not! It’s old people! Old people—the people you get stuck behind in traffic—are now in a big rush to move what is ideally a three-hour game a little faster. Peter King ain’t got shit to do on game days! We should get rid of replay so Peter can get to the coffeehouse ten minutes sooner to tell a disinterested barista about Jalen Ramsey’s game-sealing interception?
Everything on Twitter is performative but anyone tweeting—fucking tweeting—that a game needs to move quicker because they have better things to do is full of so much shit it’s coming out of their eyes. We are on Twitter and watching sports because we have nothing better to do. Let’s not lie to ourselves and to others.
Al Michaels made a comment about how he loves hockey because the last two minutes actually take two minutes, intimating that the sport isn’t bogged down by replays. He clearly hasn’t watched hockey in a while since games are now stopped to see if a skate blade was slightly offside or if a goaltender was nudged enough to have a goal overturned, both of which are good things because previous officiating ineptitude proved the NHL needed to protect itself against those errors. Everyone crying for the NFL to get rid of video reviews is a dipshit of the highest order.
This is a symptom of the Age of Stupid. We all know that rules surrounding catches need to be simplified and are the root of many extended reviews, yet somehow the takesman’s arrows have missed the easy target of an overly long, poorly written rule and landed on the technology that prevented the Titans from having a game stolen from them in Kansas City. Officials would not have realized a ten-second runoff was required at the end of Panthers–Saints if not for the checks and balances that save the league from embarrassing outcomes that mar important games! This weekend's slate of games is the perfect argument for replay, not against it. Have you all lost your minds?!
Time rots the human brain. It tricks us into thinking things were great Way Back When. It leaves people longing for a time when a blown call could cost a team a playoff game because Tim Cowlishaw is simply far too busy to endure a game that’s eight minutes longer than it should be. “My car’s radio isn’t working. Better light the whole damn automobile on fire and get a new car in a year!”
There was a booth-initiated review at the end of the first half of the Bills–Jaguars game because a receiver was knocked out of bounds a yard short of a first down. He was clearly short but we had to take two minutes to make sure what we all knew to be true was true. Something should be done about these needless reviews, but to hop onto your pulpit and scream "REPLAY IS THE WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN" because you had to wait two extra minutes to take a halftime dump makes you look like a jackass.
How about this? The challenge system stays the same. All scoring plays are still automatically reviewed. We change the catch rule so that catches are catches. No more booth reviews in the final two minutes of halves. If you want to challenge a spot with 40 seconds to go in the first half, you have to use a challenge. That will force coaches to be more judicious with challenges, which will quicken the game, and the final two minutes of NFL games will resemble the final two minutes of NHL games as Michaels remembers them.
Technology can have drawbacks that make you reconsider the technology itself. The internet has allowed information to spread freely and quickly, but what if the information is incorrect? Has conveniently communicating via e-mail and text left us more disconnected from people on a human level? CGI technology allows for a believable light saber fight but what if it’s used to create a distracting wax robot version of Grand Moff Tarkin that everyone has to pretend is great?
The halt to play that comes with making sure touchdowns are touchdowns and fumbles are fumbles and catches are catches is a small price to play for not royally screwing over a team. Suck it up, people.