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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Video and getting a call "right"

I have always been against instant replay, being one of those who enjoys the "human element" and the "flow" of the games. I recognize the countervailing argument for getting it "right" by available means. But this play, from St. Joseph's NCAA Round One victory over Cincinnati last night, calls into question what we mean by getting it "right." Cincy's game-tying dunk at the buzzer, initially called good, was waved off following video review. Beginning at the 2:00 mark, you can see the extreme slow-motion/frozen video that showed he still had his hand on the ball (pushing it down through the rim) when the red light went on.*

[*] Leave to one side the oddity that dunking the ball worked to the player's disadvantage in this instance, by requiring him to keep his hand on the ball longer than if he had shot a lay-up or dropped the ball through the hoop from above the rim (as players did during the NCAA's absurd no-dunking days from 1967-76).

But we only could see the "right" call via video slowed to a speed so far beyond the ability of the human eye and brain. Do we really need college basketball games to be decided by such super-sensory means that establish correctness at a meta-physical level? Is it fair to say the refs got the call "wrong" initially, when the wrongness could be established only by this extreme use of video? And should we understand the "truth" of what happened by what we can perceive with our senses or by what video reveals at that heightened meta-physical level?**

[**] Recall that the lawyers who successfully defended the LAPD officers in the Rodney King beating in state court did just this with that video: Slowing it down to the frame level so as to reveal movements by King that might have shown continued resistance, even if there was no way anyone could have perceived them. This strategy has only become easier with the advances in video technology.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 19, 2016 at 09:01 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


There's a thread in the new-technology Fourth Amendment jurisprudence that turns on a distinction between enhancing existing senses and creating new senses. Replay somewhat smacks of that.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Mar 21, 2016 2:05:59 PM

I have a similar concern re: instant replay in baseball -- Often, a player will clearly beat a throw when stealing a base or otherwise advancing, yet through the "magic" of instant replay, it is revealed that his foot bounced off the bag for a millisecond while the tag was applied, and the runner is declared out. An excellent discussion of the problem is here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/terrance-gore-and-fixing-baseballs-broken-replay-system/

Posted by: gdanning | Mar 21, 2016 12:37:03 PM

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