Revisionist history. It's what would happen if ...
We got our share of it last week as stood witness to the fiftieth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's murder, made all the more real since it occurred on a Friday, just as it had in 1963. What if it had continued to rain in Dallas as it had earlier in the day? Maybe the bubble top to the limousine would have been used and made the President a more difficult target. What if Kennedy weren't wearing his back brace which served to keep his torso upright during the attack? We'll never know. We don't get do-overs in history.
Unless you're talking sports.
Replay came to the National Football League for good in 1999. The system has improved over the years even if the quality of the refereeing it oversees hasn't. To be fair, the game is harder than ever to officiate. Rules change annually and interpretations of those rules change even more frequently. Things that used to be legal are no longer.
Like the clothesline tackle. In the 60s, a Hall of Fame defensive back for the Detroit Lions made a career of it. The neck high tackle was Dick "Night Train" Lane's calling card. The clothes line went the way of the horse collar, while quarterbacks became sacrosanct and you were no longer allowed to hit a defenseless receiver. Whatever that is.
Professional sports has embraced technology in a big way and as the games got faster and more complex, officials were allowed a second look. Plays like the interference call made on Carolina's Luke Kuechly against New England last week and then retracted, will someday fall under replay's scrutiny. Which could have changed the outcome.
What if replay had existed in 1973. Would the Immaculate Reception catch by Pittsburgh's Franco Harris against Oakland have been allowed?
The National Hockey League now has all goals reviewed from a central location in Toronto. They weren't doing that in 1999 when Brett Hull got his triple overtime Stanley Cup winning goal for the Dallas Stars with his skates in the crease against Buffalo.
Major League Baseball wades into replay next year providing managers with challenges. Would the new system have saved Armando Galarraga's perfect game from a bad call on the last out in 2010? Would Johann Santana have lost his in 2011 because a fair ball was called foul? Would Jackie Robinson have been called out at home on a steal attempt in the 1955 World Series, as New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra always claimed he was? Would Kansas City have been denied its only World Series title in 1978 after a Game Six blown call?
Revisionist history. There was a time when we were willing to live with these decisions. It's a time long past.
Bill Pucko is a career journalist, an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He has worked for more than 30 years in television, radio, and newspapers in Rochester. He is a sports columnist for the Messenger Post Newspapers, co-founded and editor of, and producer and host of a high school sports show on WBGT.