Army-Navy Game pioneered instant replay

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For those of us who groan through what seems like an unending litany of instant replays in college and NFL football games, partial blame falls on the Army-Navy game for the technology’s birth. The first ever use of instant replay occurred at the end of the 1963 broadcast of that year’s Army-Navy game won by Navy 21-15 after Army scored a touchdown.

In fact, the technology was so bewildering that it caused many viewers to think Army had scored twice to win the game. Michael Connelly wrote about it in his book The President’s Team: The 1963 Army-Navy Game and the Assasination of JFK. Wired also wrote about it last year to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the mechanism that allows analysts to test out their drawing skills and drive coaches and viewers nuts.

Of course, the referees from the 1963 game didn’t hustle over to the sideline and watch the previous play under a black hood. But the addition of instant replay to the CBS broadcast paved the way for it to be incorporated in future broadcasts putting the pressure on the NFL and other professional sports to allow their referees to see what the rest of the viewing audience could. The previous logic doesn’t apply to FIFA officials who’d prefer their refs look like buffoons.

You can be sure instant replay will be used both on the field and during this year’s Army-Navy broadcast Dec. 10. Instant replay played a key role in last year’s game when replay showed that Army quarterback Trent Steelman had not crossed the goal line and fumbled the ball to Navy safety Wyatt Middleton who ran the ball back for a Navy touchdown. The touchdown return squashed any hopes of an Army upset.

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