January 13, 2010

Cheating on Replay: Whodathunkit?!?!

The NHL is reporting that FSN* Pittsburgh--which owns the broadcast rights to Penguins home games--withheld a critical and conclusive replay of a goal scored by the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.  The disputed goal was disallowed, and after the review period expired, FSN showed the replay to its viewers.  An FSN producer has been suspended over the incident.  Thankfully, the replay did not affect the outcome of the game, won handily by the Flyers.

I'm shocked this situation has not arisen before.  In fact, with many pro and college teams having deals with local or regional networks (or in some cases, owning their own networks), I would be surprised if this indeed is the first such incident.  Replay is intended to provide for the integrity of the game by correcting errors.  Instead, actions like this allow replay to jeopardize the integrity of the game.  It's not just a matter of withholding unfavorable replay angles; what's to prevent some quick editing to show a player landing in or out of bounds, or the clock expiring earlier or later than was actually the case?

Given the millions of dollars at stake in sports these days, pro leagues and college conferences need to establish open review procedures with their covering television networks, and contract for stiff financial penalties should any shenanigans occur.  Perhaps a league or conference official should be required to observe the TV production team in action, with the ability to communicate to the replay official as needed.  The financial temptation to "help" the home team (and help the network's own ratings in the process) is simply too great to permit these potential conflicts of interest to go unmonitored.  In any event, public confidence in the use of replay needs to be restored.

* Apparently the Fox News "Fair & Balanced" standard has been extended to Fox Sports. What's next? Sean Hannity joining Terry Bradshaw to make replay decisions for NFL games?

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