Wrong, wrong, wrong. If you're one of those Spam-brained,
slack-jawed geniuses who want instant replay back next year,
you're not just wrong, you're Hoover Dam wrong. We need it back
I mean right now. I mean this weekend. I mean as soon as humanly
possible, if not sooner.
Let me ask you something. How would you feel if they rolled you
into the operating room for brain surgery and the chief surgeon
said, "Well, Mr. Crumb, we have in this room all the latest,
most expensive technology to perform this delicate operation
safely and effectively. Unfortunately, we're not going to use
any of it. Nurse, the leeches, please."
That's how NFL players feel. They're out there acquiring
permanent limps, leaving their spleens on the field, only to
have the games decided at the end by a lot of fully paid-up AARP
members who can't wait to get together after the game and gum a
nice bowl of creamed corn.
Now, a quick message to some of our friends out there who are
NFL referees: RED GRANGE HAS RETIRED. PLEASE REPORT TO THE
RESTFUL ACRES SENIORS COMMUNITY IMMEDIATELY.
In a kind of Terrible Triple Crown, NFL refs may have cost three
teams spots in the playoffs in the last few weeks. There was 1)
Holy Ghost, the phantom end zone pass interference call by back
judge Jose Feliciano that cost the Bills their game against the
Patriots; 2) Tailsgate, in which head referee Marlee Matlin
botched the overtime coin flip that cost the Steelers in their
game against the Lions; and 3) Weak Sneak, the touchdown call
line judge Stevie Wonder gift wrapped for Vinny Testaverde on
Sunday that cost the Seahawks their game against the Jets.
(Somebody keep an eye on the Meadowlands and call us when
Testaverde finally gets that ball over the line.)
Yo, Paul Tagliabue! If you really are the commissioner of the
NFL and not just a cadaver holding down limo-seat springs,
you'll declare a leaguewide emergency and give us instant replay
this weekend. You'll put a replay official in a room by himself
at every stadium, give him every angle the network has and let
him save your game.
Anytime the replay official sees something a little
questionable--for instance, a back judge's calling film critic Rex
Reed for pass interference--he just radios the referee and says,
"Uh, hold up a second while I give this a little look-see." No
sideline monitors. No coach's challenges. No whining over what's
reviewable. Guess what? Everything's reviewable, up to and
including Tagliabue's job.
It doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't have to be the
Nuremberg trials. It isn't in hockey. The NHL just puts a man in
a booth with his dozen favorite monitors. He sees something
screwy, and he phones down and says, "Hang on, eh?" It usually
takes about a minute and has the added advantage of being the
correct call. Imagine that.
While you're at it, Tags, you need to...
1) Rewrite the pass interference rules. NFL officials don't know
pass interference from right on red anymore. From now on, you
bump a receiver, anytime, even in the parking lot, it's pass
2) Dump NFL director of officiating Jerry Seeman. Ever since
promoting Seeman in 1990 the league has gone through more
bright-yellow laundry than La Cage aux Folles. Average penalty
yards per game is up 25% since he took over. He's such a drill
sergeant on midweek review (page 82) that shivering refs are
throwing hankies at sneezes just to be on the safe side.
3) Get some leadership on the field. Seeman has his refs
standing 12 to 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage, which is a
wonderful place from which to heave your hankie but a lousy
place to control a game involving 22 men, none of whom have been
to a cotillion. Kansas City's Derrick Thomas was flagged for
three personal fouls on one drive this season and wasn't thrown
out. What does he have to do, start up the chain saw?
Look, officiating in the NFL during the 1990s isn't easy. Most
of the time it's like standing on the side of a freeway trying
to I.D. the vegetable stuck between the incisors of a woman in a
passing Ferrari. Even if the league goes to younger refs (it
should) and full-time refs (it should), the job will still be a
bitch. Why, then, do we let every man, woman and child in
America have instant replay except the people who need it most?
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA [Rick Reilly]