In October of 2013, The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee created a minor media fracas when he insinuated that world #1 Tiger Woods had become “cavalier” with the rules. Chamblee’s evidence? Woods’ four rules’ violations during the 2013 golf season, all of which were immortalized on video. Many critics would argue that because of Woods’ media draw, every shot he hits is on camera (unlike his fellow 120+ competitors each week) and thus he is subject to biased coverage and scrutiny. The goal of this short essay is to highlight some “controversy” that is “produced” (or induced) by the advent of instant replay. That is, the ability to not have a fuzzy recollection of what happened, but to have a mediated, multi-angle evidentiary collage of the “facts.” The review of which not only impacts game play, but the viewers’ understanding of the rules, their application and the need to “get it right.”
During week 3 of the NFL 2012 season, the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers ended (sort of) on a controversial call in the end zone which “ended” the game ... but “upon further review” the “overwhelming video evidence” clarified the call on field. The “controversy” was magnified by the NFL’s use of replacement referees officiating the game due to a labor strike with the usual NFL referees. After players had done post-game interviews, and left the field, the instant replay officiating team required them to resume play and decide the game. Again.
Of note here is that the NFL (like the other major American sports) is continuously monitoring play from a variety of cameras, angles and producers’ eyes. The golf example highlights that viewers can impact play by “calling in” possible rules’ violations captured on camera, and players are subject to disqualification if rules have been violated and not accounted for on their scorecards. The NFL is currently considered “centralizing” its review process, which would remove the in-stadium/on-sight (and thus potentially “emotional”) process and locate ALL reviews to a central base of operations and dedicated production/review team. Stay tuned as this process is under further review.