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22 Sep 2006
Do you like instant replay? Me neither. But it's not going anywhere, so we might as well figure out how to make it work. Here are some suggestions.
Posted by: Michael David Smith on 22 Sep 2006
53 comments, Last at
27 Sep 2006, 4:32pm by
Great article, MDS. You hit the whole problem with the system straight on -- it is still too prone to human error.
Plus I get to read a columnist say "Billick was right." That never happens often enough, either.
One thing I've noticed about instant replay this year, is that as soon as there's a challenge, networks tend to immediately go to commercial, and then they come back after the challenge is resolved. This helps with the disruption issue, assuming it doesn't give the network an "extra" commercial break. (At one point when I was editing commercials out of video-captured football games, I noticed that every game got a certain number of commercial breaks per quarter, every quarter).
One problem I can see with giving yardage penalties for failed challenges is the goal line. That is, when the challenging team is either backed up to its own goal line, or defending at the 1, the penalty for a failed challenge is miniscule.
For example, if I were a coach, I'd challenge any non-TD play by the opposing offense inside the 5 yard line, alleging that there was an uncalled hold by an offensive lineman. I'd probably win a few, and the most that I'd lose is a handful of yards.
#3 - How about if you call for a penalty & the yardage penalty would result in a TD (eliminate half the distance) then the offensive team gets the ball on the 1 & make it a 1st down.
As for the original article, I think 15 yards is too severe. 10 should suffice. Other than that I agree with the changes.
Instead of unlimited replays, I think each coach should get three challenges. If he loses the challenge, he gets a yardage penalty, but if he wins the challenge, he gets that challenge back, so you can challenge as much as you want untill you're wrong three times.
Forgive me for using the dreaded 'R' word (respect), but I have to do it; I just lost a lot of respect for MDS. The points themselves aren't bad, but they're nothing particularly insightful, and more to the point, the entire column's obnoxious whining about replay is hilariously off-base in a Joe Theismann way.
His first, third, and fifth ideas are fine, but they're nothing new. The fourth idea is one I support, but the initial reasoning is somewhat faulty (as he says, coaches are guilty of needless challenges themselves, arguably as much so as booth officials). His second point also has promise, although there could be problems and I doubt coaches think of timeouts as useless.
The problem comes with the ancillary complaining that comes about how the replay system should be removed. Considering that this website has come to fruition based on interest in the strategies of football, I am stunned that one of its writers would say "Even though I'll acknowledge that the use of instant replay overturns incorrect calls more often than not, I believe the corrected calls come at too heavy a price â€” they delay the game and therefore make it less fun to watch." First, is MDS seriously saying that the multiple blown calls in Super Bowl 39 that were corrected by replay (including a turnover on a fumble) should have been left as is, along with the countless mistakes that everyone watching on TV sees on the first replay? Does he forget, in his whining about 'tempering our excitement after a spectacular catch," incidences like last year's WAS-TB playoff game, in which a replay prevented a dropped pass from being ruled a touchdown? Second, the fact that a writer on a statistics-oriented website brushes off the question of how many calls are changed for the better, as opposed to not changing anything or making the call wrong. Even if he doesn't want to do all that work now, he should at least acknowledge the possibility that there are a lot of calls that do get corrected. Next, the 'we need to make the game more entertaining' thinking is why football fans face the specter of 40-minute halftime extravaganzas at the Super Bowl and each playoff game. MDS, believe it or not, the guys on the field playing the game that we enjoy might just actually prefer a 'slowed down' win over an entertaining loss that comes as a result of a blown call. And it's funny to hear a fan of a sport with more delays and breaks than any other, by far, complain about an additional two to ten minutes added on to a game full of breaks.
I think this is mainly a pet peeve issue. The delays to the action produced by instant replay are themselves only minor irritants. They become major irritants to some only because their source is something that those people oppose. A major injury will delay action longer than any instant replay. Yet I doubt too many people get angry when the delay is due to an injury, because every reasonable person agrees that such a delay is necessary. In contrast, if people perceive that the delay is unnecessary, they can get very annoyed by even the slightest delay, and I think that's Mike's problem. If Mike thought that the benefits to instant replay outweighed the costs, then instant replay's costs probably wouldn't bother him so much. The single best solution for those who hate instant replay may well be just to get over it. It's really not as bad as you've worked yourself up to think it is.
I also strongly disagree with this article, and find the emotional slant of the entire thing unpleasant. This isn't your personal emo blog MDS, this is Fox. By starting the article off like that you actually undermined the rest of it - you don't believe in what you're suggesting, it's just "a bit better than the thing is now."
Just to end with my personal opinion: I hate injustice, and instant replay considerably reduces it.
I agree with several of your proposed improvements, but dislike the tone of the article a great deal.
i'd much rather see a game called correctly than have it finish (at the most) ten to fifteen minutes earlier. do we really want the mindset that if a ref screws up so be it, as long as we don't have to sit through a commercial break? aside from that, i think the changes would improve the system, though the fifteen yard penalty seems too harsh. and i agree with post 5 about the amount of challenges a coach should have. as i see it, the problem that is not addressed is how to make the officials stay within time constraints, and i would institute a fine based on the number of minutes over the allotted replay time for each officiating crew.
The thing about replay is that TV will show a play again whether or not there's any mechanism for changing a call on the field. What the NFL is trying to avoid is the situation where everyone in the world but the officials knows that a call is wrong. The Heath Miller "touchdown" on opening night stood because Nick Saban didn't challenge soon (or emphatically) enough, not because there wasn't a way to correct the mistake that was obvious to everyone watching at home.
And I'll add that inserting a commercial break into the replay window helps reduce the delay. Television deserves much more of the blame for slowness of games than the replay system.
Well said. One quibble: I don't like the penalty idea, at least not on the first challenge you lose. (Maybe it could be like illegal defense used to be in the NBA--the first time is a warning and the second one is an infraction.)
1) I agree with MDS that we'd be better off without replay. I used to be a big proponent of it, but there are just too many stoppages of play, and I finally realised something: the bad calls that get reversed are almost always close enough for me -- yeah, maybe the RB's knee hit the ground 1/5 of a second before the ball came out, but that's close enough to the spirit of a fumble that it's not some huge outrage if the call goes the wrong way. And, of course, the bad calls will tend to even out.
If they wanted to kill instant replay but bring it back for the playoffs, that might be the best solution; it's hard for the bad calls to even out if one of them directly costs you a trip to the Super Bowl.
2) I disagree with just about everything else in the article, and I was surprised that MDS didn't bring up the one obvious change that should be made, especially if one is concerned about delays. Bring back the replay official. The current setup takes much longer than it has to. The ref has to jog over the coach, discuss what it is he's challenging, then jog to a specific point on the field to announce a review, then jog to the replay machine, then watch the replay, then jog back to the field to announce the decision, then he has to argue with whichever coach lost. It's ridiculous.
Also note that 80's-style instant replay would be a lot quicker than it was in the 80's, since they're working with an all-digital setup now and can zoom through all the angles in no time. Back in the day, they were basically rewinding VCRs over and over again.
"And, of course, the bad calls will tend to even out."
Has there even been any research to show this? I"m not seeing how a bad call that allows a game-winning TD in the final seconds of the Superbowl could ever be "evened out".
I don't think any fans are going to care that two seasons ago a bad call in week 9 went in their favor.
Replay stinks and should be abolished but it's probably not going to happen. Given that I think MDS has an excellent package of changes that would certainly make the package better.
Bionicman - you are an idiot.
I agree with the idea that when a play gets reviewed, it should get reviewed. The coach shouldnt even be consulted. The refs should look over the whole play, and if theres a penalty, it should be okay to call it. This whole list of crap that can be called is silly.
Mike, I completely disagree with you here. At no point should fairness be sacraficed to make the game go quicker. Replay didnt happen in that Pittsburg game. DId anyone who isnt a pittsburgh fan enjoy that game? I dont think so.
Bad calls not getting fixed affects the enjoyability of the game MUCH more than an extra 3 minutes of replay, and we all know that the refs make plenty of bad calls.
For a site interested in the strategy, and the inner workings of football, I'm very dissapointed here. It's more of "who cares whats correct, we need a story." Its the article equivalent of Peter King's Fine 15. Attitudes like this are why we have Deion and Shannon Sharp and the Bus commentating. The NFL thinks we want less football, more pomp. You're just giving them an extra 5 minutes a night to spew their drivel.
And C'mon here, isnt the whole mantra of this site:
"The Best is the Enemy of the Better"
And your argument is: "its not perfect, so we should chuck it"
#13: You didn't read my entire post, did you?
I have to say, I was a big proponent of replay as well, but frankly I've become completely disillusioned with it. The whole point of replay was to get a definitive answer to questionable calls so that the referees couldn't be held responsible for the outcome of a game. Last year's SB, in my opinion, pretty much nailed the coffin shut on that idea. It doesn't matter what kind of technical tools we give the referees - bad referees are going to do a lousy job, and nothing is going to change that.
That said, if we are stuck with instant replay, let's try and make it better. I frankly don't see the whiny tone that other posters seem to, and most of MDSs suggestions are spot on, particularly 1, 3, and 4. I don't think that 15 yards is an appropriate penalty for losing a challenge - let's reserve on-field penalties for on-field actions, and if you're not going to have a stiff penalty for failing a challenge, than unlimited challenges makes no sense. I prefer to make coaches value their challenges by restricting the number they have, rather than penalizing them for being wrong.
Re: #6 & #8
I'm really disappointed to see people ripping on MDS for writing an opinion article. FOX Sports is full of opinion articles; nearly every article that is published, other than the majority of FO content, is somebody's opinion. It may not be an empirically based article that we're used to reading from the FO guys, but that doesn't mean it's bad. So, nice article MDS; it's a great topic, and I'm sure this discussion thread will be pretty active since it's somewhat of a controversial issue.
P.S. I'm a big fan of the Adult Friend Finder ads that have been popping up on here lately. Nothing like a 45 year old mother of 2 posing in lingerie to keep me coming back!
#18: I agree, but it's not just that. One would think that having replay to correct calls would lessen the controversy surrounding the officials (which is always bad for the game), but it actually has the opposite effect.
Without replay, frustrating bad calls will sometimes happen, but there's nothing to get in a tizzy over: the ref had a bad angle, it happened too fast, whatever ... and that's the end of the discussion.
But when an official is thought to have blown a replay ruling, there's always a controversy. And there's almost always at least some controversy, because there's seldom unanymity about the correct ruling among viewers. People are biased, people see different things, and most people don't understand all of the fine print in the rules.
By stopping the game to dwell on the closest of calls, the NFL is giving every fan (and wagerer) a chance to let his bias and emotions run wild. And now that everyone is worked up about it, they get a ruling that's sure to piss off at least a sizable minority who are now convinced that the ref is a blind incompetent.
In an era where any and every play can and will be recorded and all significant referee decisions will be replayed for the benefit of the TV audience if not the refs, I don't see how your statement applies. The pass interference call against the Patriots in the Denver playoff game last year wasn't reviewed, and neither was the PI against Carter in the Giants-Colts game a few weeks ago, yet fans have been more vocal about those calls than anything involving replay (except for the famous Morelli INT ruling). Even if they abolish replay, fans will see all the angles in slow-motion anyway.
The problem with getting rid of instant replay is that if the networks got an extra five minutes a game back, do you really think the game would end five minutes earlier or do you think they'd find more space to put in ads?
You're also talking about taking the game away from the coaches a little bit, but honestly I don't think most fans mind replay. It's a chance to argue with friends about a call, get more chips, take a bathroom break, laugh at Joe Theisman trying to fill time...okay, maybe that last one isn't so great.
I agree with the first, third, and fourth suggestions. I don't agree with the 2nd or 5th. Of course, the 5th is contingent on the second, although I think we all know without it games would be Hell. I really like the challenge system. It's very creative and it's unique in sports. Except for tennis, I suppose. It can be improved, yes, but remember when replay went away for a bit and it didn't work in making the games any less shorter? Networks have found the sweet spot of game timing. They're not going to give you back those five minutes a game either way.
#21: I didn't mean to imply that there's no officiating controversy without replay, but it seems inarguably true that there is less controversy without replay. Aside from the fact that it adds an entirely new decision for fans to get mad about, it gives millions of fans with a high emotional stake in the outcome a relatively long time to dwell on a call that many of them will feel is obviously wrong. It can't help but increase the perceived importance of the officials, which in turn necessarily leads to more harmful controversy.
I would just like to add that while this also was not one of my favorite offerings, MDS rules, and we all must get behind hi to avert the annual suicide watch :)
Anyway, have a good day.
Replay sucks. Not having replay sucks.
My biggest problem with instant replay is the incentive it gives the referees to make the obviously incorrect call, just so they can lean on the crutch of instant replay.
For example, a RB gets tackled and the ball pops loose, obviously after the runner is down. The refs will now always rule it a fumble, so they can use their instant replay crutch.
It just seems their whole attitude is, "who cares if we get the call right, we will just fix it later."
It's when the fans stop getting mad about blown calls that the NFL should start worrying. There's nothing like a little controversy to make people talk about it on Monday.
#18: "The whole point of replay was to get a definitive answer to questionable calls so that the referees couldnâ€™t be held responsible for the outcome of a game."
Actually, no. The whole point of replay was to allow reversal of the calls that every bozo in a bar in the country could see were wrong. That's why the standard is supposed to be "indisputable visual evidence", although lately it seems that referees have been kind of ignoring that.
Personally, I like the idea of allowing replay to overturn anything (again, provided refs stick to the "indisputable visual evidence" standard), and I like the idea of a failed challenge being a penalty - though I think 15 yards is excessive; I think a 5 yard Delay of Game penalty is appropriate. (Perhaps with some tweak for the area inside the 10 - a free down or 1-10 at the 1 if the challenging team is on defense, a loss of down if the challenging team is on offense.) You'd also need to do something about challenges inside two minutes being used, like injuries were, as artificial clock stoppages - perhaps a mandatory clock runoff for a failed challenge.
MDS is absolutely right that a lost timeout is not enough to prevent coaches from making ridiculous challenges. It's simply stupid to have to sit there waiting 5 minutes while a rage-blinded coach challenges a play that everyone with a TV or a view of the jumbotron can see was called correctly (or not badly enough to overturn). Last time I tried arguing with someone about this, I suggested that teams lose draft picks for failed challenges... but I guess a yardage penalty would get the message across too.
"This isnâ€™t your personal emo blog...this is Fox."
What is Fox but a personal emo blog? Their news channel still believes in weapons of mass destruction (as they decry the cultural impact of the productions of their entertainment channel). This is exactly the kind of article appropriate to Fox.
The sad thing is that FO has taken to displaying the content-less articles from Fox on their site. Where is the analysis of the numbers? Of the 946 overturned calls, how many impacted the game? How do we quantify the impact of instant replay taking time? How much would it hurt to speed up the review process?
This article absolutely met the qualifications to appear on Fox. However, I had thought that FO had higher standards than that.
I applaud MDS for his efforts, but it's obviously impossible to have a rational discussion of officiating or the replay system.
I don't get why people are still looking for some mythical "perfect game." It's not going to happen. Sure, replay will lower some mistakes, but the system isn't much of a safeguard. In fact, a huge part of the problem with officiating and replay in general are because of the league's desire to take all human element out of the rules. Remember Polamalu's fumble nee interception? You had a cadre of lengthy rules written specifically for only one type of very rare situation, and the ref got confused. I doubt anyone could say with a straight face that he would have come up with that one had he not spent a minute staring at a screen, running a myriad of obscure rules through his head. Second-guessing the officiating can be just as bad as a bad call (in that case, worse), and the lengthy replay period gives a beautiful opportunity for that to happen. This is not even mentioning the added time taken up.
I used to like replay, but after seeing it in action, I'm extremely disillusioned. All it seems to do is take up time and erode fans' respect of the refs, which is a serious problem for the league. The only way I can see to make it better is to go full-tilt replay and include penalties in it, but error is intrinsically part of the game, and spending an extra hour per game to get rid of it would cease to make football fun.
Those reviews would be more tolerable if the replays really were "instant," but they're not.
The average replay lasts about 1.5 minutes. MDS's own stats indicate that there are an average of 2 replays per game. 2-3 minutes of game time is intolerable?
1. Let Coaches Challenge Everything
5. Allow Unlimited Challenges
So there are too many challenges -- so your solution is more challenges?
21: I didnâ€™t mean to imply that thereâ€™s no officiating controversy without replay, but it seems inarguably true that there is less controversy without replay.
Of course it's arguable. The last time replay was done away with people made this argument. Within two weeks it was clear that replay was needed.
I seem to be the only one who thinks replay is just fine. The total number of bad calls is reduced about 50% (no, not to zero, since when is that the gold standard? The same people complaining about replay being imperfect are those that say human error is 'part of the game') at a very small cost in time lost. It's been a stunning success.
Optical, they added rules just to counterset that this year. If the ball pops loose, and its ruled down by contact, the refs can still award the ball to the other team.
Instant replay was introduced because we had the technology to see what was done wrong and show it over and over, instanly. The problem with instant replay is that the technology hasn't evolved with the fans expectations.
I have a few suggestions to hopefully make the review quicker, more accurate and even possibly entertaining.
Each and every play upon completion should be queud as if it will be reviewed. There are production methods available now that would enable this.
There should be an official reviewer, he could even wear one of those snazzy jerseys. This reviewer would be in the booth and if a a review is called for by a coach he would be ready to review instantly.
The review itself should be done on a single monitor that has the play from every available camera angle displayed. From this screen the reviewer will be able to see the entire action unfold and close screens that are irrelevant to the play in question. The reviewer should also be able to enlarge any view to be able to examine it more closely. It would be great to see two or three views of the same play in a frame by frame shot, simultaneously.
In order to make this whole prcess more pallatable to the fans in the stands and those watching at home, the official review would be shown live as it was taking place. We would see what was influencing the official reviewer as he was seeing it.
Showing the review live would also eliminate the "Wizard of Oz" effect that now takes place with the current system. The officail could be watching Old Charlie Chaplin films for all we know.
I can't understand the negative criticism of this article. It was, as usual, a well written and well reasoned piece. If you disagree with the premises or the conclusions, then this is the forum to speak your mind. But don't call it a bad article. It's not. Someone said they were "losing respect for MDS"? Huh? That's crazy talk.
My own 2 cents: get rid of the ridiculus peep show booth, and add one full-fledged official to the crew, whose job is to sit upstairs and to uphold/overturn replay calls. He/she would then report the verdict to the referee on the field. The game keeps a rolling.
I totally disagree with his first point, suggesting you can challenge any non-called penalty.
Uh, holding, I would challenge that there was holding every time the other team got a first down or touchdown.
#37 Exactly. I'd be willing to risk 15 yards to have a touchdown called back knowing holding could be called on nearly every play. MDS has called for refs to use replay to look for uncalled penalties before and it's an absolutly terrible idea. It makes more sense to add a few more referees and simplify the rule book than to give the head referee the power to go looking for penalties or head coaches the power to cheat the system.
I played rugby in college for a British head coach and he often made the point that Americans spend far too much time worrying about the refs and not nearly enough worring about the play on the field. Bad calls and missed calls are a fact of life; expecting anything otherwise is just foolish.
Ditch the idea of the reviewer, whether it's someone in a booth or the ref on the field, and let people vote from home on their cell phones or whatever. Text something something something if you think that play should be reviewed! while the team tries to hustle the kicker onto the field before TV viewers can enter their vote. And then a whistle, play stops. Fans voted the play was reviewable. Text something something something if you think the receiver made a football move before losing the ball! And text something something something to add a ringtone with your vote!
One big change I would like to see would be the adopting of a "you know it when you see it" standard for catches and fumbles. That would be open to controversy, but would it be any more so than the ridiculous Polamalu overturned interception, or last week's overturned Delhomme fumble?
Combine that with the chance to review penalties, and the whole Tuck Rule controversy goes away. It's ruled a fumble. Replay shows that, without any obscure or poorly written rules getting in the way, yep, it's a fumble. But wait! It's also clearly a blow to the head that caused it. 15-yard penalty on Oakland, nobody complains except Raider fans, and we miss a whole summer of "How can you be in the act of throwing while holding the ball at your knees?" and "Why doesn't every QB just pump fake when he gets the snap, so every fumble would become an incomplete pass?" discussions. I think we're all better off for it.
How about #6:
Don't hire lawyers to be referees!
It's even worse now that they huddle up to discuss the call in committee, then there's a challenge and another discussion between the ref and the people in the booth.
It's like watching C-SPAN.
I'm 100% convinced that it needs to be All or Nothing. It won't be nothing, therfore... I don't like the penalty idea, unless you get a couple of freebies (costing a TO), but if you are out of TO's then it costs a penalty if you lose a challenge.
One of the best examples I saw of replay being broken came a couple of years ago, don't remember who was playing. Receiver catches ball in the air, near the sideline and gets pushed out as he comes down. Ruling on the field is that he got both feet down. Challenge. Go to the booth, which (according to the replay rules) makes the correct call, receiver didn't get both feet down. He should have been credited with the catch, since it was a clear force-out, but since they ruled that he got both feet down on the field, and force out's aren't reviewable, the booth rules incompletion.
If they threw out the next automatic TV time-out every time there was a review, then that would go a long way toward making it palatable to the average fan. That way the total number of commercial breaks would remain the same.
But if the force-out was called, the referee would tell the coach that the play was unreviewable. I suppose if there was a question of whether or not the receiver had possession, that could be reviewed.
It's not the replay system that makes for all the delay. There are way too many commercial interruptions. How many times does the following happen?
Touchdown team X! Extra point.
Offense runs a play or two and the team calls a timeout for some reason or an injury occurs.
Challenge ruling of catch on 3rd down.
It's just crazy. The best way to speed up a game would be to stop going to timeout on change of possession. It doesn't take 3 minutes for the offense to get on the field. No, really.
44: The issue is that if an official deems that the receiver got both feet down despite being pushed towards the sideline he doesn't call it a force out. They can review if the receiver got both feet down, but currently not the force out. The ruling on the field "both feet down" was wrong, hence overturned. The correct ruling "force out" could only be made on the field, but isn't made if the receiver is believed to get both feet down.
Again, replay only makes sense if everything is reviewable.
The reason some things are not reviewable, is because they are judgement calls. Only things that can be clearly seen on a replay; both feet in, crossing the plane, fumbling before you knee hits the ground, 12 men on the field etc. Judgement calls such as; force out, pass interferance, etc. cannot be reviewed.
The issue is that if an official deems that the receiver got both feet down despite being pushed towards the sideline he doesnâ€™t call it a force out. They can review if the receiver got both feet down, but currently not the force out. The ruling on the field â€œboth feet downâ€? was wrong, hence overturned. The correct ruling â€œforce outâ€? could only be made on the field, but isnâ€™t made if the receiver is believed to get both feet down.
I've seen force outs be called by the replay official before.
Re 48 Doubt it, I've heard multiple times that force outs aren't reviewable, since they are judegement calls.
Thing with judgement calls is that as with any other penalty it needs to have clear visual evidence to overturn. Is pass interference a judgement call? In a lot of cases it really isn't. Is offsides a judgement call? Nope, either you went over before the ball was snapped or you didn't. Ditto for delay of game.
Did he honestly just say that it should be a 15 yard penalty to lose a challenge?
..... MDS... I've liked you as a poster for a long time now. But seriously... 15 yards...
Even 10 yards is insane. Let's say there's not enough video evidence... Let's say that they still get it wrong on the monitor. Let's say that it changes the entire game.
Your hatred for instant replay has made you crazy my friend.
Here is my take on instant replay.
There should only be a booth review.
The referees should have no part on the field. There should be a guy in the booth who is a referee. He should look at the tape, at most discuss it with the refs.
A guy in the booth should make the decsion more quickly.
I don't know that I have ever seen offsides called when it didn't happen. If anything it tends to happen but is not called.
Offsides is just an example, but (hypothetically) corner blitzes offsides, not called, gets a sack (you KNOW you've seen that one). How about the Giants D called for offsides & roughing the passer on the same play, when the clock expired first? Happened last Sunday - not that it had any impact on the game...
Anyways, my point is simply I;ve seen so many games turn on a bogus penalty call or non call that is clearly bogus on the replay. Its usually PI, so if they added that to the list of reviewable calls I'd be happy.
36: I agree. Put a review official in the booth. I read an article last year about the college review system. They talked about having a monitor with 9 little pictures, one from each camera. The official could touch one to enlarge it and review the play. They basically were reviewing every play! They could stop the game if they wanted to. The officials on the field could call up to the booth if they wanted to. It was quick and accurate. I think the college rules may have changed, maybe for the worse? Anyway, it sounded like a great system.
FO's Tom Gower checks in from Chicago with a first-person account of what it's like to cover the NFL draft on the scene.
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