Monday, January 19, 2015

Inventor of TV instant replay, Tony Verna, dies at 81: Report

The man who invented instant replay for live sports 51 years ago, passed away Sunday at age 81.

Tony Verna — a name not recognizable to most fans but a well-known innovator in his field — is gone but, left behind, arguably, the most important invention in live sports television broadcasting ever.

The noted television director and producer was behind the idea of using instant replay for the first time in the Dec. 7, 1963 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. Before the game, Verna developed a method to cue the tape to pinpoint the play he wanted to immediately air again. He said he was looking for a way to fill those boring gaps between plays during a football telecast.

The concept was so new that when Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh scored a touchdown, announcer Lindsey Nelson had to warn viewers: "This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!"

Instant replay quickly became a staple of sports broadcasting. And today it's hard to imagine any televised athletic event that doesn't and can't use Verna's simple idea. Whether it's replaying an exciting moment, close finish or reviewing a call from the officials booth, the ubiquitous technical effect has become an important part of the television viewing experience and each game itself.

And, oh yeah, it fills in those boring gaps between plays.

And these days, when instant replay is taken for granted, it's only when controversy rears its celluloid head, does his invention make headlines.

Verna went on to produce or direct five Super Bowls, the Olympics, the Kentucky Derby and even "Live Aid."

Thanks again ... and again Tony Verna.

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