One of the things I enjoy most about sports is the sense of shared history and experience that they give us. Those of us who care about sports can share the experience even if we didn’t watch the event together.* Years after an event occurs it’s possible to reminisce and talk about what we saw.
*One of the problems with treating the Olympics as a reality TV show rather than a sporting event is the loss of this sense of shared experience.
The recent Lance Armstrong and Penn State situations have pointed out how this is no longer the case. Any sporting event I watch now is subject to being revised sometime in the future. It pisses me off when George Lucas does this. It’s even more frustrating when it’s applied to history.
This isn’t a case where I’m defending Lance Armstrong or Penn State or Ohio State or Marion Jones or USC or Michigan* etc. etc. And I completely understand the urge to punish by retroactively removing successes. The problem is that rewriting the past ends up cheapening the present. It’s retroactive replay.
*The NCAA is a pioneer in rewriting the past.
My biggest problem with instant replay is the delayed celebration. When a great football play happens, before celebrating, you have to check for flags, then wait for a replay challenge, and then wait for the play to be reviewed. Only after the ref announces the result can you celebrate.
I like to react when something happens not wait for it to be confirmed. And it’s deeply annoying to feel like something happened only to be told that it didn’t happen at all. But at least the confirmation or erasure comes quick and the game itself continues.
That it’s possible to change events years or decades after they happened means people are being encouraged to keep the same mentality of waiting for confirmation long after they’ve watched the event. All those crazy rides which got Americans excited about the Tour de France? Never happened.* That Ohio State vs. Penn State football game in 2010? Never happened.** Who knows what events from this year’s Olympics will be overturned in the next years. And really, who cares?
*It does not surprise me that most people I know tend toward defending Armstrong. It’s not HIM they’re defending, it’s their memories.
**Essentially. Both sides vacated victories that year.
Once people stop being invested in the result of a sporting event, the event itself stops being of interest. Sports needs to find a way of dealing with controversies in its past which do not threaten the event itself. Rewriting the past isn’t the solution.