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I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Instant Replay usage

I think anybody who watches a sporting event on TV expects instant replay to be a big part of their watching experience, but I'm here to tell you, I have some issues with its current usage. Specifically, overuse. No doubt. Particularly in the arena of baseball and football, which happen to be my favored sports.

But first some history. The first authorized broadcast of the innovative and game changing broadcast technique was December 7, 1963 for the Army/Navy game. Replays had been played during the broadcast before, but only during halftime or after the game. The "instant" was a game changer. The announcer felt compelled to tell the audience "Army did not score again, ladies and gentlemen, that was a replay..."

It would be irreverent to not frame that particular game in context, originally scheduled for November 30, the game was postponed after the tragic assassination of John Kennedy on the 22nd. President Kennedy had taken a particular interest in Navy that year, and its Heisman trophy winning QB Roger Staubach. He'd performed the coin toss the year before and hadn't missed the game in the first two years of his presidency.

Navy was #2 at the time with one loss to Southern Methodist (32-28). Odd, SMU ended the year 4-6, and played in a bowl game (Sun Bowl). The 28 points were the most scored against the Ponies, so their was that.

But I digress.

My issue with replay stems from football and baseball. The production teams seem to feel the need to fill the time between plays/pitches with a replay of the previous action, even if uninteresting. That, in and of itself, is okay. But there are two crucial points of these sports that are being lost:

Baseball - TV broadcasts (particularly national) seem to feel the only action in a game starts with the release of the pitch. THIS IS FALSE. When the pitcher toes the rubber, that action is in play. The batter is eyeing the defense, a runner is leading off, the pitcher is running through the pitch selection (which is extremely non-trivial). But TV broadcasts seem to want to show replay up to the point that the pitcher is through the windup. This has a secondary effect as well. I, as the viewer of baseball, get my anticipation up based upon the cadence of the windup. You get up for the delivery, back off for the taken pitch, back up, etc. Instead we usually get the following:

Batter fouls ball off
Replay shows batter taking hack at ball in slo mo replay
2nd Replay shows pitcher delivering pitch (maybe focusing on location)
Cut back to next pitch, which is already being delivered.

Football - Again, TV seems to think that the time between plays is time the audience is bored and must be shown something else. Too many times, they cut back from multiple replays of a 3 yard run just in time to show the snap (or worse, play has started). Wrong, I love to see the players running on/off, the players getting the call, organizing, etc.

In my opinion, replay is cleared:
From the end of the baseball pitch action until the pitcher is on the rubber.
From the end of a football play until the team is in the huddle.

These get extended until the pitch is delivered or the QB takes the snap. And part of those games strategy takes place during those crucial times.

I find that in the NBA and NHL, not as much of a problem. I submit that the equivalent of showing replay during the pitcher on the rubber or team the huddle is like showing a basketball replay when the point guard is at the top of the key. No action, right? Nobody is scoring. Of course not, the whole play is being set up. And you never know when the alley oop is coming.

Same with hockey. You NEVER see replay when the puck is live, not even when held behind own goal and setting up a play.

MLB and NFL (and college football) should take note. Just because the pitch isn't in play doesn't mean action isn't happening. Half of a football play is the formation and too many times we cut back to the snap and I don't even know what personnel is in, who was in motion, etc. College is also bad because so many teams run hurry up, and I'll see at the end of the play that the team is lining up VERY quickly, but the broadcast cuts away and shows me a coach reaction to a play or the play itself and I'm SCREAMING to get me back so I can see if the defense is reacting fast enough and/or what formation the offense has.

And for what. Usually to see a replay of a tipped incomplete pass, a 2 yard run, a fouled pitch, a groundout to shortstop, or even a throw to first base.

Stop the madness. Only show replay on really good plays or plays drawing into question what happened.

A whole other blog could be written for how fans have DVR and can watch what they want if they have questions.

And a blog after that for why they show fans at the game instead of the action.

And a third blog for ANY interview done during the game. Baseball and football most guilty, how many times are we watching some interview of a non player in which the ball is hammered into the corner or a big turnover takes place.

It's not that hard, show the game, just the action, only show replay/inteverview/etc. when there is a timeout or before the huddle break. I want to watch the game, stop the overproduction!

2 comments:

  1. This is not where I thought you were going with this post when I read the title. Interesting point of view.

    While I too find it annoying, I still think they are producing the show to entertain the most amount of viewers. Why has double box or PIP fallen of of use in games (best of both worlds?).

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  2. I think there's a lot of factors at play here. One is that the attention span of a TV watcher in general and sports watcher in particular is shortening. A lot of people are probably tweeting/texting/reading between plays anyway.

    Also, I've noticed the NFL is much better about not overusing as compared to college. Again, when a team like Oregon is on the field, the replay guy should just take a break. Good news is it will only be a couple of minutes. But to try to squeeze in just about anything is ludicrous, but they do it anyway. NFL has 3 or 4 angles cued up, then gets back much quicker (more $$ in production).

    Baseball is the worst about just assuming nothing is happening because it's baseball. So many dugout interviews, some celebrity in the booth, etc. Baseball is always about 3 seconds away from a play that could define the outcome of the game. Too bad you have to be patient for the other 3_ hours it doesn't happen.

    And the biggest offense is talking about something besides the game during the game. But the production team (which consists of communication majors, not sports players) always thinks that the crowd can't possibly be interested in this, so let's call someone on the phone or tell the announcer to talk about Joe Paterno or Oregon's recruiting violations, even if it's a USC vs. Stanford game.

    At some point, the hyper attention deficit disorder will strike back, and TV will evolve into the fan picking what replays he or she wants to see, what angle, etc. I will choose a wide angle between plays to see where the players are lining up and how the subs are going. Someone else will be replaying the big hit like a bazillion times. Progress!

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