By Jack Dickey
January 22, 2015

Anyone who toils namelessly presenting the stars to the masses dreams of changing his field. But legendary CBS Sports producer Tony Verna, who died on Jan. 18 at age 81, was the rare man who could say he actually pulled it off. Verna’s now simple-seeming 1963 innovation–showing a play again, just after it happened–revolutionized the viewer’s experience. Before, replays came only at halftime. Thanks to Verna, fans who had missed a play could immediately catch up.

Instant replay also spawned two great legacies. The technology allowed fans, particularly in football, to understand what they had just seen. Announcers and color commentators could highlight just how much choreography preceded each dozen-man mob. Linemen could shine. And instant replay facilitated official review, a process whose applications have only grown broader with time. All four of the major American pro sports now employ some form of video review; the bad calls that survive are exceptions. In a 2013 interview, Verna lamented the scarce attention he had received for his 50-year-old idea. Upon further review, he changed sports forever.

–JACK DICKEY

Write to Jack Dickey at jack.dickey@time.com.

This appears in the February 02, 2015 issue of TIME.

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