I don’t complain about officiating in the National Football League.
It is a useless activity and akin to complaining about an eight-year-old dropping a fly ball in a Little League game. One doesn’t belittle a little kid from making an error in baseball because the little guy is just learning the game, doing the best he can, and encouragement is a lot better than ridicule.
Problem is, we shouldn’t be comparing the officiating in the NFL with a little league player, but they have more in common than they should. Little league players are not professionals, after their games they do what kids do; go to school, play with their friends, do household chores and homework.
After officiating a game, the guys making the calls in the NFL go back to what they do as school administrators, policemen, lawyers or whatever their day jobs are. Officiating an NFL game is just a weekend gig.
I don’t find complaining about officiating useful for my business, but it does affect it. If ever I wanted to protest the officials it would have been in 2006 when the calls in Super Bowl XL affected the outcome as much as a bad parent umpiring a little league game while attempting to help his son win the contest. I was watching a head official in that game make one call and judgment after another that tipped the scale in that contest to the Steelers side, cringing with the knowledge that the head ref in that contest was a gambler and one time Qoxhi Picks client.
Fans of the New Orleans Saints have a right to cry foul when the Los Angeles Rams advanced to the Super Bowl three years ago based on a flagrant pass interference that was not called. The missed penalty call was so obvious that the league changed their rules the following season to try and correct the problem of blown calls on pass interference. But, when the league saw how many errors were made on that judgment call they decided to not change any of the mistakes and instead started costing teams that challenged blown pass interference calls with a challenge and time out by not acknowledging the original error.
The teams learned quickly that it was futile to challenge a pass interference call because of the conspiracy to not change the decision on the field. After one season, the rule allowing a challenge on pass interference was dropped.
The problem I have with the NFL is that instant replay and attempts to correct their incompetence with instant replay rules, is missing the more important issue; getting full time qualified refs who call the game with a greater degree of accuracy. The first thing that would be eliminated is the ridiculous five, six, sometimes as long as seven minute conferences on the field where a group of officials are pushing players out of earshot of their conversations while they are trying to decide on the rules affecting a recent play.
One of those meetings took place in the first playoff game this season.
The Las Vegas Raiders were at Paul Brown Stadium in the first game that began this surprise journey to the Super Bowl by the Cincinnati Bengals. The official behind the play thought Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was out of bounds before he released a pass that was caught in the endzone for a Bengals touchdown. Unfortunately, like any blown call by an NFL official, the inadvertent whistle nullified the touchdown. The rules state that an official's whistle ends a play, inadvertent or not.
Except when the rule would have taken away a Bengals touchdown it seems. The refs got together and decided the whistle came after the catch was made and the touchdown stands. No it didn’t, the whistle came even before Burrow released the ball, we have the tape and sound to prove it. It certainly would have been an official error that cost the Bengals a legal touchdown but that doesn’t erase the fact that they nullified the play with one of their bad calls just like they cost Drew Brees a trip to the Super Bowl and Mike Holmgren the distinction of being the only head coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams. He coached the Seahawks when they were juked in the Super Bowl and also guided the Green Bay Packers to the title to complete the 1996 season.
How did the Bengals touchdown get to stand?
The incompentent crew that first blew the inadvertent whistle then made up that it came after the play to slide by their mistake.
No, I’m not going to spend time complaining about officiating because incompetence can spat its spew from any direction at any time. What I am going to complain about is the NFL not correcting the problem at its source. Hire full time officials that work their trade like any professional would their day job. Spend 12 months a year honing their craft with film studies and physical regiments that better allow officials to keep up with the athletes on the field.
It seems so basic for an enterprise that has grown to the leading sports entertainment in our country to have professionals officiating their games. And now, now that they have abandoned their pretend opposition to gambling and jumped in bed with the point spread world, the scrutiny of the league’s officials is going to be more intense than ever. We are not talking anymore about a bad call sending fans wearing redshirts home sad while those wearing blue shirts celebrate a result.
We are now talking about putting on display how that call shifted millions of dollars from bookmaker to bettor.
If the NFL starts messing in this world with the same dismissive attitude they showed fans of the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, there is going to be hell to pay.
So, I am complaining about the officials while calling for the league to hire full time professionals.
In the meantime, I don’t want to get on the wrong side of the striped shirts. Backing the Raiders in the Bengals first preseason game would have been to be on the wrong side of the officials incompetence … but on the right side of their decisions to obviously protect this young Cincinnati team.
Just as they did in the AFC Championship Game when at least three obvious calls went the Bengals way that could have determined the Kansas City Chiefs were preparing to meet the Rams this week.
A hit out of bounds on a Chiefs ball carrier was not called. A fair catch by a Chiefs punt returner allowed the Bengals player to run into him without a flag. And finally, when Joe Mixon burst up the middle to get the Bengals into chip shot field goal range in overtime against the Chiefs he left the ball on the field without being touched.
By rule, that was a live ball which was recovered by the Chiefs … but the officials determined Mixon gave himself up and the ball stayed with the Bengals and allowed them to kick the winning field goal.
Simple incompetence, or the league rooting somehow for the upstart Bengals?
I hate the idea that I have to factor that into my handicapping of Super Bowl LVI.