A Modest Live Request: Show the replay!

Know what little thing bugs me most when I've paid half a Center Ice subscription's worth of cash to see a single game in person? When my friends at home have a better idea of what's going on than I do. So glad I bought a ticket.

When my brother worked for an international company and took some of his Italian colleagues to an NHL game, they had that notorious reaction that we claim sports fans are supposed to have at their first live hockey game: They loved it. I can still hear their Italian accent (native Italian, not Americanized/New York Italian) raving afterward: "But...but...thees game -- eet is so fast! Zee players, they never stop moving!"

With the advent of HD and more affordable big screens, bringing the vivid live experience home has gotten closer and closer to matching "being there." Which makes me worry about the NHL (and every sport league, if I still bothered with them) when they deliberately do things that make me wish I was at home instead of at the game.

Things like not showing the replay of close or controversial calls on the scoreboard. It varies from arena to arena, league to league, but it's an asinine policy, really, and it undermines that special experience of seeing this great game in person.

Numb the People with a Shootout, Maybe They won't Rebel

It appears the unspoken rationale is: "Oh, we can't show anything that might indicate -- {gasp} -- refs make mistakes." MLB, home of the Vanilla Stadium Replays Only, is far worse than the NHL in this area, but none are perfect about it.

It's as if they fear that a mob mentality will set in, and there will be a riot, and then an asteroid will hit the arena, there will be a revolution, control of a local petrol refinery will teeter in the hands of a small community whose only hope of protection from a violent gang is a motorcycle-riding ex-cop who we decades later learn is an anti-Sem...wait...I think I confused their fears with the plot of the "Mad Max" series. Sorry. Okay, where were we?

Ah yes: Frankly it's insulting that sports leagues can trust fans to pay $30 (if you're lucky), $75, $250 just for the privilege of being there (plus untold extra ducats for parking, beer, cheesy poofs), yet they can't trust fans to process the most basic information about the game -- i.e., "Was it really a penalty?" "Should he have waived off that goal?" -- information that every other fan outside the arena is seeing three replays of at that very moment you're begging that the in-house display plays one.

They might even go an actual innovative step further and set up an in-house wireless channel where fans can select replays on their mobile device. (Wait...scratch that. They'd surely just convert that into another "premium" service and charge you extra for the privilege of seeing what you already paid for.)

 

"Hey. It's me. I'm at the game. Can you tell me what I'm seeing?"

Because when you're at the actual venue, what happens when something controversial or requiring of instant ref judgment happens? Everybody grabs their phone and calls a buddy who's watching at home.

Friend at home: "Did you see it? This is crazy. Wow was that a brutal elbow."

You at the game: "I mean I saw a collision, but I couldn't tell. Now everyone's scratching their heads and no one knows what happened. Even though we're right here. In fact, there's a really expensive replay machine hanging right above center ice, but it's playing an animated hat game and a Justin Bieber ad right now."

Friend at home: "Wow. Bummer. It was brutal. I hope he's okay. They just showed a close-up of his face, it's gushing blood. Anyway, I'll let you go stand in line for a $10 beer though. I've got another premium brew chilling. Six, actually. They cost me $8 total."

You at the game: "Yeah. Alright. I'll uh...well it will be 90 minutes after the game when I get home so...yeah, um, see ya."

As long as crowds keep showing up, there is still nothing that quite matches the atmosphere of an important live game. I firmly believe that. But as all prices associated with being at a live game keep escalating and you keep getting nudged into decisions like "The 10-game package, or food and heat this winter?" I start to wonder: What happens when this just isn't worth it to anyone but the richest fan or the corporate account?

And when there's a close play or a controversial call, while the rest of the world finds out and the entire arena is left wondering what they're not seeing, you know what would take my mind off how much I paid to not know what's going on right in front of my face?

If they just showed the stupid replay.

*  *  *

Note: The traditional gameday post will be up later this morning. If you didn't notice at the top, this is a sponsored post. There will be a couple more over the next two weeks, all based around the fan experience theme. The bonus is I get thrown a bone for the LHH Happy Hour Fund -- and an excuse to write about this topic that really does get my goat. So discuss this topic, or what you want the next topic to be, or how I sold my soul but on my deathbed I will receive total consciousness. ...which is nice.

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