Instant replay has been a controversial topic throughout the history of professional sports. There are certainly more than a handful of times when instant replay could have provided justice to poor officiating if it had been available. Currently, Major League Baseball is taking a lot of heat for some controversial calls and misuse of instant replay occurring around the league. But replay was employed to assist with human error that can occur during bang-bang plays that come down to a centimeter’s difference.
According to Time, instant replay was first tested in the NFL in 1986 until it was removed in 1991. The league figured the game delays were not worth accurate officiating until enough bad calls piled up and the system was back by 1999. NHL introduced limited instant replay in 1991, NBA introduced instant replay in 2002 and Wimbledon in 2006. In 2008, MLB introduced instant replay on home runs and fair-foul plays. Last season, MLB commissioner, Bud Selig, announced that the manager-challenge system would be used during the 2014 regular season.
But let’s be honest, sometimes instant replay and poor officiating like align themselves to ruin our favorite moments. From Derek Jeter‘s fan-assisted home run in the 1996 ALCS game to Houston Oilers’ Mike Renfro’s non-touchdown catch during the 1979 AFC divisional playoff game, instant replay is supposed to amend human error. Unfortunately for Renfro, instant replay was not being used in the National Football League in 1979 leaving only the fans at home to witness the terrible mistake.
10. “1st Manager Ejection” – Boston Red Sox v. New York Yankees
John Farrell is the first manager to be ejected from a Major League game since expanded instant replay was introduced. After a close bang-bang play at first base, Yankees’ skipper Joe Girardi won the challenge called on catcher Francisco Cervelli being safe which kept the drive alive and allowed a run against Boston. Despite protests that there was not enough evidence to overturn the call, the officiating crew felt otherwise. The day before, however, Farrell and the Red Sox were privy to the disadvantages of instant replay as the umpires botched an obvious out at second base. When Yankees’ second baseman Dean Anna clearly stepped off the bag on a double, he should’ve been called out. Instant replay showed Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts still had the tag on him when his foot came off the bag but the umpires still determined he was safe. The Red Sox lost 3 of 4 games in the series against the New York Yankees.
9. “Pollock’s 2-out Run” – Arizona Diamondbacks v. San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants fell victim to Major League Baseball’s instant replay expansion early in the 2014 regular season. During the second match-up of their opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a string of poor officiating and instant replay blunders saw the Giants lose the first 2 of a 4-game series at Chase Field. Down 4-2 in the bottom of the 4th, Giants’ starting pitcher Matt Cain tried to pick off Diamondbacks’ outfielder A.J. Pollock at first base. First base umpire Chris Guccione called Pollock safe which was upheld after Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy challenged the bang-bang play. Without irrefutable evidence to overturn, the play stood and Bochy lost his right to challenge any play for the rest of the game. A few plays later, Giants’ catcher Buster Posey couldn’t control Cain’s pitch and Pollock took advantage of an empty home plate. Posey appeared to get the ball to Cain at home plate in time for the inning-ending out but, unfortunately, the home plate umpire saw it differently which left Bochy and the Giants with no option to review. The Diamondbacks would win the game by one run.
8. “Angel Eyes” – Oakland Athletics v. Cleveland Indians
Veteran MLB umpire, Angel Hernandez has a bad reputation for making controversial calls and a 2013 regular season match-up between the Oakland Athletics and the Cleveland Indians was no exception. Down 4-3 with two outs at the top of the 9th inning, A’s infielder Adam Rosales hit what appeared to be the game-tying homerun. However, the hit was called a ground rule double by the officiating crew. Upon further review, it was obvious that the ball hit the wall a few inches above the yellow line and should be overturned and ruled an inside-the-park homerun. Unfortunately, Hernandez could not find enough evidence to overturn the call on the field. Oakland’s manager Bob Melvin naturally challenged the upheld call and was quickly ejected from the game. The Indians would go on to win the game 4-3 after Oakland was left stranded with the bases loaded.
7. “The Navorro Bowman rule” – San Francisco 49ers v. Seattle Seahawks
During the 4th quarter of the NFC Championship game last season, the San Francisco 49ers were down 20-17 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game. The Seahawks were trying to orchestrate a scoring drive to put them ahead by 10 points when QB Russell Wilson threw a quick pass to wideout Jermaine Kearse who made the catch on the 1-yard line. After Kearse caught the ball, 49ers linebacker Navorro Bowman striped the ball free, got his leg stuck underneath Kearse while going down and lost possession of the ball in a pile-up. During the ensuing chaos, Bowman loses possession and Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch came out on top with the ball. Unfortunately, at the time, officials were unable to determine what really happened because recovery of the ball can’t be overturned if the play on the field is ruled a fumble. The Seahawks got the ball back and, ironically, Wilson botched a hand-off to Lynch 2 plays later that forced a turnover. Regardless, San Francisco’s season was ended in the 23-17 loss, Navorro Bowman tore his ACL and MCL and the Seattle Seahawks went on to destroy the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
6. “Pac-10 Problems” – Oregon Ducks v. Oklahoma Sooners
In 2006 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, the Oklahoma Sooners were down 33-27 with 1:12 left in the 4th quarter. The Ducks’ special team squad were expecting the onside kick after the Ducks’ QB Dennis Dixon had just run in a 16-yard touchdown. As expected, the Sooners shifted into motion and an Oklahoma and Oregon player went up for the ball simultaneously. The only problem is the Oregon player blatantly touched the ball shy of the 10-yard mark which should have made it an illegal kick. Unfortunately, the officials didn’t see it the same way despite reviewing the play for several minutes.
Although there were many questionable calls during this game, this play gave the Ducks the opportunity to execute a game-winning drive to upset the Sooners. Oregon QB Dennis Dixon went to work and the Ducks defeated the Oklahoma Sooners (including RB Adrian Peterson) 34-33. The referees were suspended for a game for the poor call.
5. “Fail Mary” – Seattle Seahawks v. Green Bay Packers
For any football fan, the beginning of the 2012 NFL regular season was an absolute nightmare. During a week 3 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, the replacement referees made arguably the worst officiating call in sports history. With eight seconds left on the clock, Seattle QB Russell Wilson launched a jump ball from the 40-yard line and wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings both went up for the ball. Touchdown. Upon further review, the ruling on the field stood. But, upon further review, M.D. Jennings clearly had control while Golden Tate was also touching the ball. Green Bay lost the game 14-12 and the real officials were back in the game three days later.
4. “The Bert Emanuel Rule” – Tampa Bay Buccaneers v. St. Louis Rams
Bert Emanuel is a former NFL wide receiver that played for the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and Detroit Lions from 1994 through 2001. But there’s one play from the 1999 NFC Championship game for which Bert Emanuel is best known. The Buccaneers were down 11-6 with less than 1 minute left in the game when Emanuel made a routine 13-yard catch. There was nothing questionable about the catch but the officials oddly called for a review of the play. After deliberation, the catch was ruled incomplete as the tip of the ball had hit the ground during the reception even though Emanuel never seemed to lose control. The play on the field was overruled and the St. Louis Rams won the game and would go on to win Super Bowl XXXIV.
3. “Music City Miracle” – Tennessee Titans v. Buffalo Bills
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson had never before practiced the Home Run Throwback. The play was designed for tight end Frank Wycheck to run upfield and then toss the ball back to the kick returner, but he was hurt. So, Dyson was not the designated kick returner but found himself in a position to win the 2000 Wild Card playoff game. Wycheck had the ball, went right, turned back to his left and threw the ball to Dyson who ran it back 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The Titans start celebrating but fans watching live television were a bundle of nerves as the refs went into the booth. As the officials considered what just happened, fans continued watching the replay of the illegal forward pass. Dyson appeared to have caught the ball behind the line but he was standing in front of the line which would still qualify as an illegal forward pass. Somehow, after review, the ruling on the field stood- touchdown Tennessee.
2. “The Tuck Rule” – New England Patriots v. Oakland Raiders
Arguably the most famous instant replay conundrum, “the Tuck Rule” happened during the 2002 AFC Divisional playoff game. Although it was more of an officiating blunder than an instant replay fail, the controversial call went to the booth and was overruled after instant replay. Originally called a fumble on the field, referee Walt Coleman reviewed the play and incorrectly deemed the play to be an incomplete pass. Tom Brady would put New England kicker Adam Vinatieri into field goal range and the Patriots would defeat the Oakland Raiders and go on to win Super Bowl XXXVI.
1. “No Goal” – Buffalo Sabres v. Dallas Stars
During the 1990’s, the National Hockey League had a rule that did not allow a player’s skate to enter the crease before the puck arrived. Unfortunately, the disciplinary guideline caused a surplus in game delays as every goal was being scrutinized for any early presence in the crease. Every goal except Brett Hull’s game-winning goal from the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. The Buffalo Sabres and the Dallas Stars were tied 1-1 in triple OT during Game 6 when Hull scored the series-clinching goal off a rebound. Even though replay clearly showed his skate was in the crease, the play was justified at the time because the crease rule stipulated that a player could not enter the crease before the puck arrived unless said player is ruled in control (not in possession) of the puck. The goal was allowed and the Dallas Stars were awarded their first Stanley Cup in a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
The Dallas Stars intelligently celebrated immediately and made it difficult for the refs to go back and look over the play.