Armchair Angst

By on January 14, 2015

Disclaimer: As a former Eagles season ticket-holder from Philadelphia, I hate the Dallas Cowboys.

I’m amazed and angered by the NFL.

The absurd officiating, the TV propaganda, and the willingness of fans to accept as fact anything spewed by NFL broadcasters is astonishing.

The only thing the studio refs  lack are Carnac the Magnificent hats and  dramatic drum rolls to spice up their farcical “predictions” that miss the mark about half the time.

The only thing the studio refs lack are Carnac the Magnificent hats and dramatic drum rolls to spice up their farcical “predictions” that miss the mark about half the time.

Replay officials reversed a 4th-down completion to Dez Bryant in Sunday’s Green Bay-Dallas game after the wide receiver took two steps and dove for the end zone with 4:42 remaining in the game.

Instead of Dallas lining up inside the 1-yard line — after a sensational catch in what appeared to be a fantastic finish — viewers heard Bryant’s landing lacked “control through the process of the catch.”

Huh?

When did NFL officials become Olympic gymnastic judges gauging proper landing techniques? How did a football play start a discussion of comparative Constitutional law?

The obscene reversal of Bryant’s obvious catch  ironically brought to mind Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous description of obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”

Anybody who saw it knows Bryant caught it.

The “process” of a catch ends when a receiver gains control of the football. It’s common sense. Subjective nonsense about maintaining control for “x-amount” of time should only matter if a defender hits the ball carrier.

The NFL and its blubbering,  knee-jerk TV broadcasters infuriate me with inaccurate, confusing, and esoteric language like “football move,” “process of the catch, and the most absurd: Bryant’s catch wasn’t “an act common to the game.”

Without the overused and overvalued replay system, I suspect we would have never heard such terms. But it’s become the norm not the exception to look at  how long a receiver has the ball – under the microscope of super slow motion that can be extremely deceptive.

Perhaps even more annoying are the 20 fans who’ve regurgitated these farcical phrases to me.

No offense, but NFL fans appear to be sheep and parrots who  follow and repeat TV broadcaster jargon.

My favorite is a nonsensical “rule” popularized by John Madden that has been repeated a million times. Yes John: the ground CAN cause a fumble if a ball-carrier falls without contact.

And that brings me to the wild-card playoff game in which the refs correctly waved a pass-interference flag in the Dallas-Detroit game. YES, I said it was correct.

Pat Burns: "A slow-motion replay that caught Romo throwing the ball with his eyes closed — perhaps in solidarity with Aikman and the officiating crew?"

Pat Burns: “A slow-motion replay that caught Romo throwing the ball with his eyes closed — perhaps in solidarity with Aikman and the officiating crew?”

Sorry sports fans, the TV broadcaster’s knee-jerk response that created mass hysteria about an NFL fix was ill-advised, short-sighted and plain lazy.

Lion’s quarterback Matt Stafford’s  underthrown, uncatchable, off-target pass to Brandon Pettigrew actually hit Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens in the back.

Yet the Fox TV booth bellowed instantly to America that the refs had it wrong.

Why?

Because the defender didn’t “turn to defend the ball.” Such misinformation, like the Madden myth, has been spewed for decades by TV announcers .

No rule exists.

Broadcasters and repetitive fans further explain that Hitchens made “contact” with Pettigrew who could only have made the catch by defying  the laws of physics, time-traveling  backwards, or managing to be  in two places at once.

Note to fans, sportswriters, and TV broadcasters: none of those are possible and the mini Star Trek cloaking device Pettigrew required to go through Hitchens  to catch the ball hasn’t yet been invented.

The reality, or at least what reality should be, is a WR and DB going for a pass are similar to two basketball players going for a rebound — there’s always contact. Common sense, which has entirely vanished in NFL, should define whether the contact warrants a foul or penalty.

Suggesting only “there was contact” on Pettigrew – as if it’s meaningful in itself  – is ludicrous. But fans acceptance of such TV  broadcaster’s tripe is legendary and a part of our vernacular.

Contrary to the hot air emanating from broadcast teams and the bogus studio refs,  NFL refs actually got it right.  NFL Films   released video of the referees explaining on the field that  face-guarding is a myth and the contact was “minimal.”

Ok, so the refs got it right on Pettigrew. Could I hope that NFL officials would embraced common sense as a matter of practice?

Not a chance.

A week after they got it right in Dallas, officials mistakenly flagged Green Bay for pass interference on a Tony Romo pass that, like the Pettigrew play,  landed well short of the receiver and defender.

Broadcaster Troy Aikman, who’d similar bluffed on the Pettigrew play,  never bothered to clarify that Romo’s pass was uncatchable by anyone. Aikman endorsed the penalty call despite laughing a moment later at a slow-motion replay that caught Romo throwing the ball with his eyes closed — perhaps in solidarity with Aikman and the officiating crew?

Ok, fast-forward. To the ref’s credit, they got the call correct initially on the Bryant catch.

What failed was the all-seeing, all-knowing, slow-motion replay system.

Slow-motion is great for determining fumbles, in-bounds possessions, identifying trapped catches, and deciding the proper ball spot. It’s not necessarily helpful for every replay and should not be used on judgment calls.

Nobody will admit it but looking at plays at up to 1000 frames per second can actually distort reality.

I thought the  truncated slow-motion TV clips of the Pettigrew non-interference flag were deceptive compared to full slow-motion clips I found on the Internet.

This led me to wonder about replay selection.

In the end, aren’t coaches on the field often at the mercy of what the commentator says or sees  in relation to what replays are available for a possible challenge?

Replay technology is supposed to remove  errors by mortal officials. But doesn’t the system often shift judgment to the humans  in the broadcast booth?

After all,  aren’t the replayed clips often selected  to “validate” what’s already been decided by spontaneous, assumptive announcers?

Maybe I’m cynical (who wouldn’t be after watching the NFL playoffs?) but doesn’t production value increase when selected replays are edited or presented in a way to confirm a TV broadcaster’s comments?

And speaking of added production value, a comical studio ref “expert” further discredited zebra nation Sunday night.

A booth official insanely  determined  a punt returner in the Colts-Broncos game   had violated the  aforementioned, one-in-a million “Bryant Rule”  by failing to control a punt “through the process of the catch.”

To quote Larry the Cable Guy: “Now that’s funny right there.”

The only thing the studio refs  lack are Carnac the Magnificent hats and  dramatic drum rolls to spice up their farcical “predictions” that miss the mark half the time.

Patrick Burns is a staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

 

 

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