A History Lesson With Booze

Replaying the Story of the Instant Replay

In December 1963, CBS’ Tony Verna changed the world of sports by replaying a crucial moment in an Army v. Navy college football game. Learn about the history of instant replay, then toast Tony, repeatedly, with a cocktail.

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George Frey Getty Images Sport
George Frey Getty Images Sport

Armchair quarterbacks, you owe your Sundays to Tony Verna. No, he wasn’t a football coach. Verna was a TV football producer, and in 1963, he invented the instant replay. For two reasons. First, because football plays happen so fast it was easy for TV announcers to miss the details. Verna was sick of watching amazing action happen on the field that announcers didn’t even notice.

But, more importantly, on TV, the game was kind of boring. Verna says there was so much downtime, “You could make a sandwich between plays.”

So, in a televised college game between Army and Navy, he deployed a video system that would help him fill that downtime by showing plays again.

It was not a smooth debut. In fact, thanks to technical glitches, Verna only used his new device once, in the fourth quarter, to replay Army’s final touchdown. After, confused viewers flooded CBS with so many phone calls that an announcer had to assure the TV audience that Army had not, in fact, scored twice.

Still, within a year, instant replay was a sports TV standard. As for Verna, he never made any money from his invention, but he did go on to an award-winning career, including directing the Live Aid broadcast in 1985.

The Instant Replay

Played by Al Sotak, head bartender at Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company in Philadelphia, where the first sports game to feature TV instant replay was held.

  • 1 tsp. acid phosphate
  • 1/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz. Blackberry syrup
  • 1 oz. Smith & Cross Jamaica rum
  • 1 oz. Rittenhouse bonded rye whiskey
  • 3 oz bitter IPA beer

Combine ingredients in a shaker. Double shake. Strain into a Collins glass, then top with beer, thus “blue collaring” the drink. Drink one down, then do it again, noting your slowed motion.