Instant replay fares well with football fans

With football season well underway, fans are seeing the effects of the reinstatement of instant replay in the National Football League. Instant replay returned after several questionable calls last season demonstrated a need for a check system on referees. This move has football fans feeling a little more comfortable this NFL season.
Instant replay allows the coach of either team to challenge the referee on a call with which they do not agree. A coach wears a device on his side with a button he can press when he wants to question a call. The referee then watches the play on video and decides whether or not to reverse the call.
Instant replay had been used off and on for a number of years, but was eliminated in the early ’90s because of fan complaints that the system slowed games down. The technique was brought back because last year referees incorrectly called at least three plays that made the difference between winning or losing for three different teams. Instant replay can help to take the pressure off referees by providing a verification system for close or difficult calls.
There have been a number of steps taken to prevent prolonged delays under the new system. The referee only has 90 seconds to look at the replay, and each coach can only contest two calls per half. So far, each team has been using an average of one replay per game. If the call is upheld, the coach loses a time out. The value of timeouts, especially late in a half, keeps coaches from contesting calls excessively.
In addition, coaches can only ask for replay on certain calls. Replay cannot be used on low-level calls such as offsides. Replays are limited to more important questions such as fumbles or to verify whether a team actually crossed the goal line.
For the most part, the new system has worked well because referees have not been afraid to reverse calls. In the first week since the system’s return, 11 plays were reviewed and four were reversed. This suggests the referees are willing to go along with the system.
However, for the continued success of this system, officials must continue to cooperate. When officials blow the whistle early, no further action can be taken on the play — including instant replay. Officials need to understand the importance of replay to ensure fairness in the NFL and work with the system.
There are some aspects of instant replay that could stand to be refined, such as coaches “accidentally” buzzing or changing their mind on a replay. Overall, though, the system is needed in the NFL today so one blown call does not unfairly cheat a team of a deserved win. This system puts some of the power back into the hands of the coaches and compensates for inevitable human error. It is refreshing to see the NFL paying attention to fans and taking constructive measures toward improving the game.