Enough with the challenges already.
Enough with the managers trotting out of the dugout to ask for a play to be reviewed.
Enough with coaches reaching into their pocket (or sock) for a little red flag.
I love instant replay. I think the people who are against it because “human error is part of the game” are ridiculous. I think if there’s a way to get a call right, we should use it.
But the instant replay system that has been used by the National Football League and the one that is being introduced this year in Major League Baseball aren’t what they should be.
In the NFL, a coach challenges a play by throwing a red flag onto the field. Each team receives two, and can earn a third if each of the first two are upheld.
Major League Baseball gives each manager one challenge per game. If that challenge is upheld, the team is awarded a second challenge.
And therein lies the fatal flaw — with the exception of late-game situations, calls can only be fixed if a coach or manager initiates a challenge.
Why?
If the goal of replay is to get the calls right — not just some of them, but as many as possible — why are this country’s major professional sports leagues overcomplicating the system? Why should the number of possible replays be limited?
It makes no sense.
Shockingly enough, the NCAA — reigning king of convoluted and nonsensical rules — is the one organization that has gotten instant replay right.
In college football, every play is reviewed.
That’s right, every one.
Now, that doesn’t mean referees trot off the field and hang out around a TV monitor for two minutes after every play. Instead, each game is assigned a replay official.
That official sits in the press box and looks at every play. If he sees a call that needs to be overturned, or if he wants more time to look at a play, he presses a button to notify the referee on the field. Then he looks at the play and makes that call.
Simple.
Every play is scrutinized. But the game is only slowed down if necessary.
Most importantly, there is no limit to the amount of calls that can be overturned.
If an officiating crew is having a bad day, the replay official can save it. If a particular game has a lot of close calls, he can make sure they’re going the right way.
It’s unlikely replay will ever be perfect. There will always be some calls that can’t be confirmed or overturned, no matter how many cameras we put on the field.
But we can do better.
Managers and coaches shouldn’t be forced to guess whether to challenge what could be a critical play in the 30 seconds before the next pitch or play. Replay shouldn’t be about timing, or strategy, or even blind luck.
It should be about getting as many calls as possible correct. That should be the only challenge.