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Katharine Rust Headshot

The Only Case for Video Replay

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If you haven't heard, Armando Galarraga was robbed Wednesday night. His chance to pitch a game to perfection (i.e. without any hits) was taken from him in a controversial call by first base umpire, Jim Joyce. In the world of baseball, where such a feat has only been accomplished 20 times since the game's inception (surprisingly, twice in the last month), some consider this a tragedy. In the world of sports? Well, yes, but it's not the only one of its kind, and it's far from the worst.

As you've no doubt been inundated with the call to arms to lobby for instant video review in Major League Baseball, an addition that has the possibility of overturning such poor calls, consider this: The league already uses it. In 2008, the MLB instated the ability of umpires to review home run calls if they are disputed under three categories: fair or foul, in or out of the park and fan interference. Hence the reason why Wednesday night's call wasn't up for review. You could argue that this use of video review is so limited, it lacks a purpose, but taken into account alongside the other major US sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL), all of which use video review, and you can see why it exists.

In most cases, with the exception of the NFL which allows coaches to review questionable plays, video review is used to determine whether or not a team has scored--something that has an actual effect on the outcome of the game, which, in turn, has an overriding effect on the season and the team's status in its league. As some have pointed out, baseball is like life and in both, error is part of the game. That's all well and poetic, but the point of video review is to ensure the most fair result possible. To review a play that has no effect whatsoever on the game at hand, regardless of whether a record is on the line, panders to the athlete and is untrue to the game.

To see a more accurately unjust non-use of video replay, you need only turn to soccer. FIFA has repeatedly disallowed any form of the practice for fear that stopping the game would disrupt the flow of play. Fair enough...except if you're Ireland vying for the chance at entry to this year's World Cup. In its final qualifying match against France, the team was robbed of the win when France's Thierry Henry very clearly illegally handled the ball twice near the net before passing it to his teammate, who scored the winning goal, sending France to the tournament and Ireland back home. Talk about a tragedy.

Despite the obvious illegality of the play, FIFA denied Ireland the chance to review the goal, a result that not only touched an entire nation's pride, but took from them the potential economic benefits of being able to play on the biggest stage. (Think of how much the Irish will lose on the world-wide sale of merchandise, potential monetary return from winning and influx of business in the service industry--though you could argue just as many Irish will turn out in bars to see France lose as would to see Ireland win.)

Only in a case such as this, where the ability to review a questionable play could determine the result of the game, and even more so, the future prospects of a team, can you truly argue for the use of video review. Yes, it's unfortunate that Galarraga lost his perfect game to a poor call, but should the ump revisit the ruling only for the fact that a record is on the line? In a word, no.

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