Monday, January 19, 2009

Can't the NFL Get It Right?

Before I get into my gripe, let me say this first: against all odds, I'm really looking forward to the Super Bowl. The relentless Steelers and the remarkable Cardinals make for a very compelling matchup.

But please, people: why can't the NFL get this replay business straight? Either ditch the whole system, or figure a way to actually make it work.

Latest case in point: 3:06 left in the first half of the Cardinals-Eagles NFC Championship game. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald has just scored (his 3rd TD catch of the half) to put AZ up 21-6, and ballsy Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt orders up a pop-up kickoff.

The ball might have touched the Eagles' Victor Abiamiri before digging in like a sand wedge shot, just barely inbounds, then squirting back toward the field of play. Arizona recovers the ball on the 30-yard line. It looks like a play that will break the Eagles' back--you can just see another Fitzgerald TD before halftime and maybe a 28-6 Cardinals lead.

But wait. The refs on the field ruled the ball out of bounds. It was pretty obvious from the live TV signal that the ball never went out (but unclear as to whether Abiamiri might have touched the ball while touching the sideline, which would have ended the play). No problem. Whisenhunt calls for a replay review.

But wait again. Under the NFL's Byzantine replay rules, this one can't be reviewed. Don't ask me to explain why. I can't.

I know this gets tiresome, but one more time: if the goal is to get the call right and this is necessary because everyone can see the wrong calls on TV, then why do we have some calls that are reviewable and others that aren't?

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