Instant Replay, technology’s answer to nearsighted referees, died March 18 at age 6 at a meeting of NFL team owners in Phoenix. The cause of death was listed as Broadcast Interruptus.
Born in the old United States Football League and adopted by the NFL in 1986, Instant Replay saw its own demise hastened by disapproving Lions and Giants and Bears — namely, league owners, a breed known to have more money than Midas and less patience than Napoleon. Replay, which allowed officials to review on videotape — and sometimes overrule — referees’ calls on the field, brought reversals of 90 decisions last season alone (also giving fans a few minutes to discuss foreign policy or order up an icy cold one). The highlight of its career may have been a game-turning reversal of a Philadelphia touchdown in a 1990 play-off loss to the Washington Redskins. No wonder the Eagles voted to kill it.
Instant Replay is survived by hockey’s Goal Light and horse racing’s Photo Finish, two technologies incorporated into older sports. No funeral is planned, but short, unprintable eulogies are expected to be delivered in bars and living rooms across America on the opening Sunday of the fall season — coinciding exactly with the first questionable call that goes against the home team.