Take A Deep Breath …

I am almost to the point where I think the average NFL fan needs to take up Zen Buddhism and engage in meditation to clear his/her mind.  The outrage over the two Conference Championship games in Sunday does not seem to have diminished much let alone have gone away and we are 36 hours removed from the causes of that outrage.  In yesterday’s rant, I said that “solutions” to the problems that seemingly caused the two Sunday games to be controversial needed to be done calmly and rationally at some point in the future.  Here is what I said then:

“What happened yesterday [Sunday] is almost certain to result in a rule change.  I do not know what that change will be – – but the Competition Committee needs to tread carefully.  Normally, the committee meets in late March; that is a good thing; if the committee meeting were this Thursday, the chances for a wild over-reaction would be at least 80%.  The NFL and the fans all need some time to decompress here.”

Today, in the Washington Post, columnist Jerry Brewer is on the same track.  Here is a link to his column; I recommend that you read it in its entirety.  The headline for the column is an “inconvenient truth” [/Al Gore] many NFL fans do not want to confront today:

“The blown call in Saints-Rams reminded us sports are messy.  More replay won’t fix that.”

Let me go over a couple of things that have happened since the “call that was never made” last Sunday:

  1. There have been calls for the two officials whose responsibility was to monitor that side of the field on that play to be fired.  Everyone can agree they were abjectly wrong in their decision not to throw a penalty flag on the play.  However, if every official were held to the standard that they must never miss what turns out to be an obvious call, there would be precious few officials left on the NFL payroll.  Moreover, like it or not, without those officials out there doing their jobs imperfectly for the first 58 minutes of the game, there would not have been those first 58 minutes leading up to this “critical moment”.
  2. Peter King reported that he has heard that Alberto Riveron – the head of NFL officiating – may not survive this “crisis”.  You are drawing a long bow indeed if you are trying to assign blame to Riveron for what happened on Sunday.
  3. Darren Rovell reported that folks who bet on the game and lost “because of the non-call” are contemplating a class action lawsuit.  I am no legal scholar; I never spent a day of my life in law school; nonetheless, I have a gut feeling that their claims for damages here are not firmly rooted in reality.

Not surprisingly, the Saints’ owner, Gayle Benson, is unhappy with the results from Sunday.  She issued a blistering statement on Monday directed at the league itself.  Here is part of her statement:

“I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again.  It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible.”

I sincerely hope that venting made Ms. Benson feel better.  Even more sincerely, I hope she will come to recognize that the unspecified changes she wants the NFL to pursue aggressively do not exist.  Nothing will “ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again.”  The egregiously incorrect happening last Sunday was the result of human error.  So long as humans are involved in the game and in officiating the game, there is no way to eradicate human error.

  • [Aside:  In the aftermath of NFL officials’ blunders, one of the old chestnuts that is normally dragged into the town square and held up as a way to prevent such blunders is the call for “full-time officials”.  Please do not call for that as a result of what happened on Sunday; “full-time officials” can make mistakes in the heat of a game just as can “part-time officials”.]

Let me be clear.  I am NOT saying that the NFL is perfect the way it is and that nothing can be done here to mitigate future problems of this type.  There will be lots of things for the Competition Committee to think about and to wrestle with.  And I hope that they do come up with recommended changes that reduce the risk of something like this happening again.  However, those deliberations and recommendations need to be made in a circumstance where the adrenaline levels in the bloodstreams of the committee members is minimized.  I do not think I am on thin ice to suggest that we are not yet to the stage where our collective adrenal glands have gone quiescent.

This collective national outrage over officiating mistakes is not new; this has happened before and will happen again.  Ten years ago, Ed Hochuli made a huge error with less than two minutes left in a game between the Chargers and the Broncos.  Like what happened two days ago, it had a serious and material effect on the outcome of the game.  Hochuli issued a public apology saying that he “failed miserably” in that action.  For that apology, he was rewarded with death threats from fans.  Really…  It happened before and it is going to happen again.  The inevitability of these recurring mistakes is concisely summarized by a definition in The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Baggage Carousel:  A whirring contraption on which you keep seeing the same suitcase, which looks like yours but is actually someone else’s, go by thirty times and yet every single time it comes around again, you still think it’s yours for a second or two.  This is a phenomenon brought about by the insane hope that the airline has not lost your luggage.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



6 thoughts on “Take A Deep Breath …”

  1. There was a report this morning that some of the betting houses were so ashamed of this situation that they returned the bets made and lost on the game. I find that hard to believe, but perhaps there’s a prop bet in the future for referee screwup in the Super Bowl.

    1. Rugger9:

      I read the same report but it lacked details about what the sportsbook did with those folks who held Rams tickets in place of Saints tickets.

  2. Two words for history: Rob Lytle. Rest in peace–but, oh, the tribulations of that quick whistle.

    1. Tenacious P:

      Took me a while to remember Rob Lytle was the guy who “fumbled-but-did-not-fumble” in that AFC playoff game a LONG time ago.

  3. I suggested to a friend in NO that he pour himself another class of scotch and relax. Life is much too short to obsess over something that does not directly affect you and that you cannot control.

    1. Doug:

      Could not agree more. I would prefer to pour myself a glass of fine Bordeaux or Burgundy – but that is a minor quibble… 🙂

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