After yesterday’s surreal conclusion at M&T Bank Stadium (and I was there to see the entire episode), I am left with a sinking feeling about the current state of officiating in the NFL. And it has more to due with the negative impact of replay review on the officials than the officials themselves.
Instant replay has been a major hindrance to professional football. The concept of the “eye in the sky” to affirm or correct calls made on the field has taken the whistles out of the refs’ mouths. Case in point was Dawson’s field goal attempt at the end of regulation. I was sitting in the lower bowl in Section 109 and clearly saw the ball hit the upright, go across the crossbar, hit the stanchion and ricochet back into the end zone. My seat gave me a clear vantage point of the two officials under the goalposts. These two looked at each other for a good three seconds before one of them emphatically signaled “no good”. The other gentleman NEVER made any signal at all. Then all hell broke loose.
My point is this: Because the officials know that instant replay is there, they’re hesitant (I would say almost reluctant) to make any call without looking at their fellow crew members first. There seems to be an unwillingness to be wrong about a call because of the replay potential for professional embarrassment. Replay is neutering the on-field officials and stopping them from making split-second judgement calls, whether they’re correct or not. And that’s definitely not good for the game.
Look back in your sports history and you’ll see that lots of big games have been decided by blown calls. Here in Baltimore, we have Don Chandler’s “field goal” that beat the Colts in a playoff game. And everyone remembers Richie Garcia, right? So we’ve been justifiably “wronged” in the past. But so has every city at some point. It’s really about the human element. nd as we know all too well, humans don’t always get the call right. But at least before the use of instant replay, the officials would actually make a call before, you know, three or four or five seconds passed.
Additionally, it was apparent after yesterday’s game that the referee, Pete Morelli, didn’t even know whether the play in question was reviewable. That’s just weak. Every official on an NFL field has no excuse for not knowing the rule book. But they can cover their backsides on just about anything now, thanks to instant replay. And as Morelli demonstrated, they can always “phone upstairs” to get feedback on questions that they don’t know the answers to.
So I, for one, have had it with instant replay. I know that we all want to see the calls made right (and yesterday’s WAS correct), but I’d also like to see the officials make calls with conviction and a working knowledge of the rule book. So let’s humanize the games again and dispose of this technological “800-pound gorilla” that sits on every officials’ shoulder.
Plus, it would shave about thirty minutes off of each game. No more committee meetings, no more sitting in the stadium bored beyond tears listening to “Tell Me Something Good”, no more coaches throwing red flags. Enough. Bring back the humans!
While I’m here, MLB is instituting replay next year for questionable home runs and balls down the line. Say it ain’t so!