Distant Replay

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October 31, 2002
Distant Replay
By Ric Sweeney

Last weekend, the Cincinnati Bengals, who will play the Texans on Sunday (or, I guess, beat the Texans on Sunday — what a joke: running smack on a first-year expansion team), may or may not have scored a game-winning touchdown in the closing moments of their game against Tennessee.

From inside the Titans’ five, and trailing by six with mere seconds left in the game, Bengal running back Corey Dillon took Jon Kitna’s fourth down handoff and was promptly tripped up by his own man (which is so insanely appropriate, I’ve decided to term such random ineptness a “Bengal,” i.e., he pulled a “Bengal” and tripped his own man. Or, he pulled a “Bengal” and guaranteed a win over a first-year expansion team. Note, you may also use “Jerry Jones” as a substitute without losing any context or meaning. Anyway…). Dillon nonetheless made a valiant effort to lunge for the end zone, only to be ruled down just short of it, turning the ball, and the victory, over to Tennessee. The replay booth deemed the ruling on the field questionable and reviewed the play, as is their prerogative in the final two minutes of the game.

Unfortunately, because CBS had dispatched their C team to cover the game — and by C team, I mean, third tier announcers (i.e. Beasley Reece), fewer cameras and next-to-no bells and whistles — there were fewer angles of the final play. With insufficient visual evidence, officials had no choice but to uphold the ruling on the field.

And whether, ultimately, they got the call right or not, the point is that had, say, San Diego been playing Denver under similar circumstances, CBS likely would have dispatched their A team, and thus, had more replay angles available, because that game, between two of the league’s best teams, would have warranted more coverage. Which brings me to the point — isn’t that unfair to teams who rest in the lower echelon of the NFL’s pecking order, like, for instance, the Texans?

If instant replay can be looked upon as an extension of the officiating crew (and I think it should be), then shouldn’t every game receive the same coverage? The NFL doesn’t send fewer officials to the lower tier games, do they? More importantly, how come no one, not a single person to my knowledge, has called the NFL on this? It’s one thing to go on the cheap with the lower tier games and make us watch them without the orange first down marker (which is kind of like asking a guy to watch pornography without the nudity — that thing’s become, like, oxygen during games), quite another for us to swallow that our team isn’t being given the same opportunities as other teams.

I’m fortunate enough to know a guy who knows a guy who’s engineered several games on Fox, and according to thim, ABC will send 32 cameras to cover Monday Night Football, and that’s 32 cameras covering the action, meaning the number doesn’t include the booth camera, or the one trained on the young and clean, Melissa Stark. Meanwhile, ESPN and the A games on CBS and Fox will use 15 to 16 cameras (again, that’s 15 to 16 covering the game itself); second, and some third tier games (those featuring fringe playoff teams) use 12 cameras and the low-tier games will use 8 cameras.

What this means is that if you’re one of the league’s elite teams, then the chances of replay officials getting the call right in one of your games is nearly double what it would be for one of the non-elite teams. DOUBLE! And if you’re on Monday Night Football, the odds quadruple. But shouldn’t the chances all be the same? Am I crazy here? In a league obsessed with parity, isn’t this the very definition of unfair?

From a Texan perspective, this is very troubling, as they’re destined to see CBS’ F-minus team for most of their remaining games by virtue of them being an expansion team and thus, not very good. I mean, I shudder at the thought of what they might be sending to Houston this weekend for the Bengal game. I’m guessing “VHS” and “Bob Golic” will be prominently involved. And what if this game ends on a questionable call and CBS doesn’t have enough cameras present to provide ample replay angles?

It’s something the NFL needs to look into and quick… well, unless the Texans start getting good and Phil Simms becomes a regular at Reliant Stadium.

So what if Ric Sweeney’s already polished off his family’s stash of Halloween candy, there’s always next year, right? Corey Dillon Corey Dillon Return to Houston Pro Football If you have a question, comment or suggestion, contact Ric Catch up on past installments of Quick Slant