He Invented Instant Replay, The TV Trick We Now Take For Granted : The Two-Way When Tony Verna was a young CBS News director, he created instant replay during the 1963 Army-Navy football game. His new visual effect changed the way we watch live sports. Verna died Sunday at 81.
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He Invented Instant Replay, The TV Trick We Now Take For Granted

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He Invented Instant Replay, The TV Trick We Now Take For Granted

He Invented Instant Replay, The TV Trick We Now Take For Granted

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now a moment that revolutionized sports. We'll jump back in time, which seems to be the appropriate way to honor a man named Tony Verna. He died this week after a long career producing and directing live television events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics. But his most important achievement lasted only a few seconds. NPR's Jacob Pinter takes a look back.

JACOB PINTER, BYLINE: For sports fans in the 21st century, there's a phrase that gets used all the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPORTING EVENT)

UNIDENTIFIED REFEREE: After further review...

PINTER: Not only does instant replay change how we watch sports, it can also impact a game's outcome. Today, we take instant replay for granted. But its beginnings were much more uncertain. Let's rewind all the way back to 1963.

(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING REWINDING)

PINTER: It's the Army-Navy game. And back then, pre-Super Bowl, this was the big televised football game. And CBS sports director Tony Verna picked that moment to try something that had never before been done on live TV, as he told NPR back in 2003.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

TONY VERNA: Here I am, a young director. And I can really be committing professional suicide if I mess up by attempting to showcase a new device.

PINTER: That new device, instant replay, involved tape decks the size of refrigerators housed in a giant truck. And Verna was so unsure this would work, he didn't even tell his broadcast crew about it until just before game time. Jack Ford is a correspondent for CBS News who produced a documentary about that game.

JACK FORD: He said he waited till they were driving over to say, hey guys, we got something we might be utilizing here. We're going to have to see what happens.

PINTER: That moment came in the fourth quarter, when fans watching on TV saw Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh punch in a one-yard touchdown run. And a few seconds later, they saw Stichweh do it again - the first instant replay. Verna said announcer Lindsey Nelson worried this new visual effect might confuse people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

VERNA: He said, ladies and gentlemen, Army has not scored again.

PINTER: Verna only tried instant replay once in that game. And it clearly had an impact, says CBS's Jack Ford.

FORD: He was the first one to understand and to utilize the ability not just to capture the moment, but to repeat the moment.

PINTER: Broadcast pioneer Tony Verna died Sunday at the age of 81. Jacob Pinter, NPR News.

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