Instant replay might work for outdoor sports
On Tuesday night the Atlanta Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in 19 innings. On Wednesday morning I saw a replay of the game-winning run, scored by Julio Lugo.
It was a run that shouldn’t have counted, as video replays and photographs show Pirates catcher Michael McKenry tagging Lugo well before he reached home plate. But the ump blew the call, and the Braves won. And that of course once again brought up cries from fans as well as players and managers for an increased use of instant replay in baseball.
I don’t know about baseball, but it did get me thinking about an increased use of instant replay in various outdoor sports, especially fishing. Imagine the many applications. You are out fly-fishing with a good friend. You land a nice trout. After gently removing the hook, you release the fish and watch it swim away to grow bigger. “Nice fish,” your friend says.
“Yeah,” you reply. “Must have run a good 18 inches.”
“That was never 18 inches,” your friend replies. “Maybe 15.”
Immediately you call for the instant replay. You both look 30 yards upstream to the big replay board on the overhanging sycamore tree for proof that your fish really was 18 inches.
OK, maybe your fish really was only 15 inches — and only if you stepped on it. So that was a bad example. But it doesn’t matter. A good friend would never have challenged your estimated measurement in the first place. Neither would a guide, for that matter.
I’ve fished with guides dozens of times in a number of different states. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught a fish and said to the guide something like, “That fish must have run about X inches. What do you think?” Never once have I had a guide correct me downward. So maybe after 40 years of fishing I’m pretty good at estimating. But other explanations of this phenomenon have occurred to me.
On the other hand, guides might want to install instant replay when taking out clients. Not to challenge length estimates, of course. But as evidence that they were doing a good job, and their clients should have caught far more fish than they did.
For example, I was fishing for stripers off the Maine coast two weeks ago with a friend who took me out in his boat. I caught a pair of nice stripers. But in the two-and-a-half hours between the two fish I landed, I must have missed eight fish that hit my hook, and had another 10 or 12 follow my fly and swirl around it without hooking them.
Now after a while, failing to hook a striking fish gets embarrassing. “That one never actually hit the hook,” I’d say, truthfully, after a big fish swirled my fly and then disappeared. But I could tell my friend was skeptical. Though he doesn’t say it aloud, he’s really thinking, “I’ve just brought this bozo to my favorite fishing spot, and I got him onto a dozen good fish, and he’s missed every one.”
If I could call on instant replay, however, he wouldn’t be thinking that. There’s the fish. You can watch in ultra slow motion on the big screen hanging off the bow of the boat. The camera shows the scene from the boat angle as the fish follows the fly in, turns a bit to the side, and then veers back to slam hard into the fly — only to miss the fly because I, in anticipation of the strike and not wanting to fail to set the hook yet again, overcompensate and yank the fly a half second too soon, pulling it right out of the water before the fish can even close its mouth on it.
It’s all as clear as day on slow motion. But in case you missed it, the folks in the instant replay booth show it again from the underwater camera angle. There’s the fish trying to take my fly. There’s my fly suddenly disappearing from in front of its mouth before it can get the hook, sort of like a batter being fooled by a good changeup, swinging too soon and missing the ball altogether. There are my lips mouthing a descriptive adjective or two.
Fortunately the underwater camera doesn’t have sound.