What Just Happened?


The experience of watching sports on television changed forever on December 7, 1963. CBS televised the Army-Navy football game, which Navy won, 21-15. One of Army’s scores was a touchdown by Rollie Stichweh—the first play a television audience ever viewed twice by virtue of instant replay. The technology at the time didn’t offer different angles, only what was broadcast live, and could not be played in slow motion. As a result, game commentator Lindsey Nelson told the audience, “Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!”

Sadly, the inventor of this technology, Tony Verna, passed away on Sunday. However, his impact on sports and entertainment will live on.

I love instant replay. In fact, I’ve seen only one professional football game in a stadium and I doubt I’ll ever do it again. Why? I missed the replays and the multiple angles! (Yes, I know the big screens in the stadiums display all this, but from so far away, and at home I also have the ability to press PAUSE and REWIND and SKIP to do my own instant replay analysis.)

Instant replay has had deep effects on all sports including how they’re presented as entertainment, how their officiated, and even how they’re played. The same technology has become an important part of other forms of live entertainment, too.

Why do we like instant replay?

Why is it not enough to experience it the first time and then move on? Why do we have this “need” to see it again? (It’s not really a need. It’s just entertainment.) Is it doubt? Do we doubt our own eyes and ears? Do we doubt the officials’ calls? Do we doubt the athletes’ ability to do what we have just seen?

Or, it might be practical. Instant replay is a time filler between plays. (Professional football is almost as slow as baseball! College ball is a bit better on this count.) It’s also tool for commentators who present insights about the game being played. And it’s a way for us to say (read “yell”) to each other, “Come quick! You gotta see this play!”

Or, is it that we just like the entertainment value. If a football play is good enough to be watched once, it’s good enough to watch 6 more times. (OK. That’s a bad reason. Few plays are worth that much attention.)

Whatever the reason, instant replay has become an indispensable part of sports entertainment. Even if you watch a game in-stadium, it’s still a part of many games at the college level and up because the officials use it to review critical and controversial calls.

Let’s move our thoughts to real life. Life in the office. Life at home. Life at church.

Have you ever wanted instant replay in one of those settings? Have you ever had a conversation or witnessed an event after which you said, “What just happened?” “Where’s my pause and rewind button?” Yes, me, too. But we don’t have one do we?

We all have those experiences in which something unfortunate is said, or some crazy action is taken. It’s rarely something we actually want to experience again. At the same time, having a replay would certainly aid in understanding what went wrong and why.

Alas, in real life, we do not have instant replay or slow motion.

We often, though, have “multiple camera angles.” When you experience one of those “What just happened?” moments, stop to ask others involved what they saw. Get their “camera angle” on the situation to diagnose it. With active listening, you can build an instant replay and work together to learn from the event. As peer-coaches you can train each other to prevent future issues.

Team members, coworkers, and family members need to have the skills and discipline to review events and do play-by-play analysis. They also need to trust one another in this process. (That’s a real big topic that I won’t explore now.) Instant-replay building activity can be applied to positive as well as negative scenarios. We need to learn from what works as well as what does not work in the office. And at home. And in the church. Everywhere.

While instant replay for football is fun, in real life it can be difficult, very difficult.

But it can be worth it.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Photo of Rollie Stichweh scoring touchdown retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/27/sports/ncaafootball/army-navy-rivalry-led-to-friendship-for-roger-staubach-and-rollie-stichweh.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 January 20, 2015.

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