Technology and replays are ruining contemporary sports

NBA instant replay

CHARLOTTENC, April 3, 2014 – I confess to being a sports purest. Admittedly I am in the minority. I am among those ancient relics who have been bypassed by technology. Having said all that, replays are ruining the sports we love and the drama that goes with them.

Pandora’s Box has been opened and there is no going back. It will only get worse. Major league professional sports have given in to modern day technology in the name of “getting it right.” Count me among those who liked it better when “getting it wrong” was part of the game and officiating was something that could not be done on automatic pilot.

We are witnessing the woosification of our sports to the detriment of the games we grew up watching thanks to pixels and freeze frames. The question is, have they made the games better? They have certainly made them longer.

Add television timeouts to red flag controversies in professional football and 60 minutes of clock time has now become more than three hours of air time.

Good old fashioned dirt kicking, base throwing arguments have been part of the fun of baseball for more than a century. No more because now they are “going to get it right.”

That being the case, let’s eliminate officials in every sport altogether and let CGIs determine the outcome. Better yet, why not build robots to play the games and save millions of dollars on high priced human personnel who frequently receive massive paychecks for not playing after season ending injuries.

Major league baseball plays 162 games every season. Do we honestly believe that an umpire’s decision will have so much effect over the course of that many games that it will determine the outcome of a pennant race? Every sport has so many variables throughout a game that most of the time there is no way to figure out which mistakes or outstanding plays actually alters the outcome of a game. And, if they can be determined, we are talking about what represents 1/162nd of an entire season.

Part of the beauty of sports used to be the ability of players and teams to adjust to bad calls and still come out on top. Certainly a call at the end of a close game is magnified by the time at which it occurs, but there are always other mistakes, most often committed by the poor execution of fundamentals by players, that more likely affect the difference between victory and defeat.

Baseball has always represented a sports version of everyday life. During the season it is a daily occurrence where good things and bad things happen. Sometimes those things, good or bad, are unfair, but the life lesions of the game are that we overcome the setbacks and find other ways to succeed.

There are no instant replays in life. So let’s get them out of our sports as well. Bring back the good old face-to-face confrontations between manages and the men in blue. Let fans complain and moan that “We was robbed.” It’s all part of the game. It worked for more than 100 years and replays do not work now.

Professional football is the worst offender. How many times have we watched replay after replay and angle after angle determine whether a player “broke the plane” or had “his foot in bounds or out” or “fumbled or didn’t fumble.” The NFL has added so many insignificant rules to the sport today that it is virtually impossible to follow the games any more.

Rather than continuous action, we are now treated to authorities on high who make judgments with the pause button while fans sit and wait for them to be sure to “get it right.”

Of course the argument is that there is so much money involved these days that we no longer have the luxury to savor the joy of sport. Sports these days are not fun. Rather they are matters of life and death. They are a business doncha know. Fine. If that is true, then use replays during the post-season when championships are on the line and leave the regular season alone.

Let’s just go back to playing ball. Sometimes technology does little more than get in the way. Modern day sports is a perfect example Turn off the electronics for the sake of the games we love.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (  

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

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  • misty

    Dear Bob,

    I too am a sports purist but I work on the cutting edge of the demonic “sports technology” industry. This may at first seem like a contradiction in terms but bear with me.

    I have to say that I agree with much of what you are saying but I think where your argument is flawed is in thinking that professional sports are in fact sport at all. They are not, they are purely business.

    Sport is what you played with your buddies on a dusty, hard, uneven patch of ground for fun when you were 16. Pro or elite level “sport” is a money driven crooks game where athletes are little more than commodities, play things, tools, a means to an end if you like and that end is always money. No matter which way you look at it. From that point of view all this technology then begins to make sense. Athlete tracking helps teams to keep their tools as sharp as possible and in good working order for as long as possible to ensure as good a return on investment as possible. Replays endeavour to ensure the right call is made only because there are literally millions of dollars on the line which are dependent on results. But hey, it’s a job. Pro sports is a high stakes game for high rollers and in most cases it is so highly manipulated by league structures and draft system to keep it interesting and competitive for fans that the race for the medal and the honour is so diluted that it simply doesn’t matter any more. Its the fame, glory and money at the end that is the attraction and that is not sport.

    As Such I suggest taking a stroll down to the nearest little league baseball team on a Saturday morning and soaking up the atmosphere. It’s pure, it’s real and it has all the drama of the big leagues except that the only reward is a good time with friends and a peanut butter sandwich.

    My fear is that even this level is being permeated by a ravenous culture of consumption and a craving for superstardom which is turning peewees into Prima Donnas at the age of six.

    May the sporting gods help us all.