Upon further review, instant replay needs a tune-up

col-tbuzz (2)Upon further review … The NFL’s instant-replay rule needs further review.

Before you roll your eyes and click on something else, this is not one of those reactionary cries that come every time a controversial call costs a team a ballgame, or a pitcher or no-hitter, or my fantasy man Buddha (“fantasy” as in league, not as in dreams) some points in one of his 87 leagues.

This is call that instant replay is suffering from overexposure. What began as a well-intentioned method of correcting blown calls that were the difference between winning and losing has exploded into nit-picking intrusion that causes unnecessary delays in the action to make minor fixes to rulings.

I am on the record as being pro-instant replay, and I still am. But the NFL has to find a way to limit the use cutting-edge technology from interrupting the flow of its games. The rampant use of replay and the development of high-definition video is quickly turning NFL games into an episode of CSI.

TD or No TD is a valid question, but do we really need TV to tell us if Player O’s toenail stepped out of bounds before Player X targeted him with the crown of his helmet? Or if the football broke some imaginary plane before the knee of the person holding it touched the ground? It’s like a Zapruder film marathon.

The footage that broke the camels back came during Sunday night’s showcase between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. After watching some of the most time-wasting replays all Sunday, the NFL saved its most ridiculous reviews for last, turning the last 5 minutes into an eternity and stretching the forgone conclusion of a game well past midnight.

The first one was fairly understandable: Trailing 27-10, Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone that was ruled out of bounds. But, upon further review and about 5 earth minutes, the head referee emerged from the hood to explain that Fasano’s right calf muscle touched in bounds before his butt cheek hit out of bounds. Body parts? Really?

After the call was overturned and the Broncos attempted to mercifully run out the clock, Wes Welker caught a pass and, while running out of bounds, stuck the football forward toward the first-down mark. Fourth down, said the ref. Challenge the spot, said the Broncos. So after surgerically breaking down the exact location of the ball at the exact moment he stepped out of bounds, the ball was respotted at the 31 1/4-yard line. That’s the 31 yard, 9-inch line for those without X-ray vision.

College football has an even bigger problem with its new targeting rule. If a referee thinks he says the call, he throws the flag, the offending player is ejected and the play is automatically reviewed. If the replay shows the player, in fact, did not illegal target, he gets to stay in the game but the penalty remains.  Try that in the real world: A judge tears up your ticket because he finds you not guilty but you still have to pay the fine.

The NFL and NCAA keep no stats on replay usage but the offseason rule change to review every scoring play, coupled with teams using assistants in the press box to green light or red light a review, is turning a nation of football fans into forensic scientists. And when the scene of the crime is prime time, casual viewers start flipping to the Puppy Bowl.

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