Tony Vernor, Inventor Of Instant Replay, Dies At Age 81

Oftentimes it's the more simple ideas that are the most brilliant, one of which belongs to Anthony F. Verna, a television director and producer who died on January 18, 2015, in Palm Desert, California. While it would be unfair to reduce a person of Verna's accomplishments to a single memory, he will forever be remembered as the inventor of the instant replay.

That's right, the feature we take for granted in every sports game was invented by Verna, who debuted his idea during a CBS telecast of the Army-Navy college football game in Philadelphia on December 7, 1963. He had come up with a method to cue the tape to the play he wanted to show viewers a second time without them missing the next play.

Instant Replay
Image Source: Flickr (Mr. Usaji)

Sounds like an easy task, but in 1963, that wasn't the case. Networks typically required about 15 minutes to cue up a film and show a play a second time. Verna figured out how to do it in 15 seconds, though not without some interesting hurdles to overcome -- vacuum tubes would burn out and, in one instance, he couldn't air the replay because the film had already been used to record an I Love Lucy episode, causing Lucille Ball's face to appear superimposed on the football field.

When he debuted his invention during an Army touchdown, announcer Lindsey Nelson explained to viewers that they were seeing the first instant replay ever -- "This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!"

Verna is survived by his wife of 45 years, Carol, two daughters Tracy Soiseth and Jenny Axelrod, son Eric Verna, and three grandchildren.