Surprise, Surprise (You do know its 2006 right?)

In My Humble Opinion…
Stephen LeeSurprise, Surprise (You do know its 2006 right?)

I feel bad that my first post has to be nothing more than a rant, but so be it. The Super Bowl is supposed to be the biggest game of the year. More people around the world tune in on Super Sunday than any other sports event in the world and the millions of people that watched this last Sunday got treated to four quarters of terrible football and even worse officiating. Now I am not going to hop right onto the conspiracy theorist band wagon, but I will say there is plenty of reason to be concerned. Everyone who has watched the game or seen any coverage of it since has seen the infamous Darrell Jackson “push-off”, Big Ben’s “touchdown”, and Matt Hasselbeck’s “illegal block” by now and even a die hard Steelers fan could see these calls were at least questionable. The long and short of it is that the officials who have been blowing calls all year managed to go out with a bang on the biggest stage possible. I am not going to sit here and re-hash the calls and continue to assault this deceased horse like every other sports writer has. What I will say is it’s time for the NFL to step into this century and embrace some other methods of officiating the game.

I look at it this way. I am a photographer by trade and I spend part of the summer months hiking through the back country of some of the United States most beautiful national parks. While on my hikes I can track my precise location using my palm pilot which is no bigger than the common checkbook. This device can tell exactly where I am in the world within two-and-a-half feet. Technology has come far enough to do that but the NFL can’t use technology to decide when a ball crosses the goal line/first down maker? Instead we have to depend on the judgment of a handful of men who aren’t even in a position to make a sound decision half the time. Seriously guys, the fans deserve better than that.

How many times over the course of the year did we as fans gather together to cry and moan about a questionable spot, a missed first down, or an overturned TD? The solution to this problem is as simple as a small transmitter placed in the ball that would be picked up by sensors in the first down makers/pylons as it passed through them. It would pose no threat of injury to the players, it wouldn’t impede or slow down the game, it only makes good sense. If the NFL is so terribly opposed to this at least put a camera in the pylons so the officials have a better view if the call is in question.

Perhaps the NFL should hire full time officials and send the part time zebras back to there more mundane (and typically much more lucrative) day jobs. Maybe if the officials spent the entire off season reviewing film and coming to more concrete definitions for things like pass interference and holding we could finally have some sort of continuity from one officiating team to the next. That’s all the fans are asking for. We want the games called the same way for both sides all year. Maybe if the NFL found some younger and more physically fit officials they could find a way to be in better position to make calls. Seriously, there is now way these 40 and 50 year old men can keep up with the action of today’s NFL at all times. Instead the fans are just left to hope that the stripes are in the right place at the right time.

I think the whole instant re-play system needs to be re-vamped as well. Instead of having to stick their heads into a box on the field when the coaches toss the red flag the NFL should take the NCAA’s example. Have an official in the booth review every single play as it happens and if there is something questionable let them decide whether or not to review it. It would help maintain the pace of the game since only the replay official could stop the game. Whoever was reviewing the play would be relatively anonymous, so the official isn’t subject to the pressures of making a decision in the midst of a screaming home crowd. (Not to say that an official could be pressured by the crowd, but you can believe I’d be thinking about the walk back to my car if I had to make an unfavorable call in front of a home crowd.)

Ultimately all I am trying to say is that all over this country fans are forking out millions of dollars every year to see their teams play. These fans have made players, coaches, and owners incredibly wealthy. Is it to much to ask that the NFL take just a small portion of the money they rake in every year to assure that each game is officiated as fairly and accurately as possible? In my humble opinion, I think not.

About the Author

Aaron Freeman
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