eye spot the law, and the . . .

nfl instant replay

with the assistance of instant replay, the media announcers of sports spectacle often modulate the rule of the referee (and the Law) — at least in the court of public opinion. which is then also to say in the boardrooms of vectoral capital, where the Law is written. the referee here should be understood as a chimera of policeman (the whistle) and judge (the penalty meted).

this modulation of the rule is three-fold: first, "bad" calls made in real time which the television broadcast instant replay shows to be wrong after the fact; second, the use of video review as a training tool by officials themselves; and finally, the introduction of instant replay during games as a means of adjudicating the Law itself.

concerning this latter use of instant replay in adjudication, it may be initiated in one of three ways: the coach (a complainant), the referee (policeman and judge), or the league (vectoral capitalists whose governance system writes the Law).

the NFL, for example, has a limited number of coach's challenges that use instant replay, as well as certain rules codified by the league in which all instances must be reviewed automatically (eg. touchdowns in the final two minutes). to my knowledge, there are no situations in which the referee has the discretion alone to initiate an instant replay review.

in the NBA, on the other hand, the referee may initiate an instant replay review, though under a discretion limited to certain categories of instances — such as "important" out of bounds calls. there are no coach's challenges, but the league still mandates certain categories in which all instances must be reviewed — such as buzzer-beater shots at the end of any quarter.

the Law constitutes the rules of the game, in other words, but also the rules that govern a league, which are different, though unrelated things. it isn't the rules that are under dispute in any particular ludic case, but rather the plays themselves and their provisional judgements (the differend). it is the play that is being reviewed and the play that has become problematized by television and spectators.

these human policemen and judges are fallible, and sport is a game. its "objectivity" is ambiguous at best, and moreover a product of modernity. instant replay was not brought in at the outset to remedy those "imperceptibles" of human vision and judgement, but is rather a byproduct of television and the subsequent flows of public opinion, nielsen ratings, etc., it produces.


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