Pigskin Detention: time to punish instant replay officials
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 23, 2011
By Pat Imig
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Fox replay czar Mike Pereira was on call in the broadcast booth for the NFC championship game Sunday. In his biggest cameo to date, he flunked like Jay Cutler - only on a smaller scale.
When an interception by Green Bay's Sam Shields went under review near the end of the first half, Joe Buck welcomed Pereira to the broadcast as Troy Aikman tentatively looked on. Pereira stated that the call on the field would be overturned:
Pereira: "Two things they're going to look at. Number one: is it an interception? ... But to me, that ball comes loose when it does hit the ground. I think that's going to be reversed."
As soon as Pereira issued the forecast, referee Terry McAuley announced that the ruling on the field would stand. A stunned Buck stayed silent for three seconds before reluctantly acknowledging a difference of interpretation and opinion of what it means to catch the football.
Buck: "So, you thought it would be overturned. I thought it would be overturned. That ball moved when it hit the ground. But they are going to keep the ball on the field, and Jay Cutler is making his way off the field as Aaron Rodgers will kneel down."
Pereira spent the remainder of the game slumped in the corner of the booth, head down next to what one anonymous source cited as "a knocked over bottle of Rich and Rare with a pack of half-smoked Virginia Slims."
Okay, that's not true. However, there are some things we need to take from this whole situation.
ONE – Before Pereira gave his verdict, Joe Buck admitted the football "moved a little" during the process of Sam Shields' interception. The key phrase is "a little." Just because the ball moves a little while in a player's possession doesn't mean it's not a catch. Shields had his hands under the ball when a part of it hit the ground.
TWO – The interpretations of people like Pereira show they have a narrow, rigid view of what constitutes a catch. In their mind, a catch means the entire catch or "process of the catch" is 100 percent flawless. Even if a player catches the ball, if it happened to move a little without the majority of the ball landing on the ground, it's not a completed (or intercepted) pass. This black-or-white view is less reasonable than the alternative.
THREE – What happened to the phrase "the process of the catch?" All the way back in Week 1, Pereira and the broadcast duo of Thom Brenneman and Brian Billick oversaw the ruling of Calvin Johnson's touchdown that was overturned at Soldier Field. The touchdown was overturned because Johnson didn't retain possession throughout the referee's version of "the process of the catch." In the instance during the NFC title game, Shields controlled the ball throughout the process of the catch. Did Pereira forget this idea?
FOUR – The narrow and rigid interpretation held by some in the land of NFL rules is an example of too much league involvement in games. For example, league rules dictate that a replay challenge inside two minutes come from "the booth." The problem is that this system has no checks and balances. A replay inside two minutes that upholds the previous call on the field interrupts the game and gives both teams a timeout. There are no consequences for the people interrupting the play on the field, be it the officials or the booth people. Shouldn't we at least allow the head coaches who get penalized for failed challenges the chance to dunk these league officials in a dunking booth after the game?
FIVE – Hell, while we're at it, why not make the entire replay system a game show? If Pereira rules differently than the ruling on the field post-replay, the offending party is kicked off the season of broadcasts to the tune of the Wheel of Fortune Bankrupt sound.
SIX – To provide a real world comparison to Pereira's mindset, let's say you're carrying a brand new 55-inch high-def television up a flight of stairs. Let's say you lose your grip on the set and nearly drop it. While a portion of it hits the ground, the point of original contact was under both of your hands so there was no damage to the set. You ultimately continue the carrying process and retain full possession before reaching the standing position. No harm to your television. Unfortunately for you, Pereira rules that you dropped the set and will not be granted a refund should your TV ever short-circuit for no apparent reason.
SEVEN – We often hear the legal defense that NFL officials are imperfect. While true, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that players are imperfect too – and by default, plays are imperfect. Why on earth does a "catch" or "completion" have to be a perfect catch or a perfect completion? If possession is retained throughout the process, that should be a catch, right?
EIGHT – The larger-than-life mentality Fox and the NFL try to achieve with non-game aspects is a recipe for backfire. Rather than glorify officials, instant replay and rules, let's allow the game between the white lines dictate the game between the white lines. To allow technology to have a negative impact on the game is a disservice to players, coaches and fans.
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