This Past Sunday.
If you're like me, then Pittsburgh's win Sunday was like finding out you were getting a video game system for your birthday only to find out it was a chinese knockoff. I mean, it may be a video game system, but it doesn't play any cool games. This past game was like that, first it's 11-10, then it's 17-10, nope, it's 11-10. And it was all due to the poor quality officiating. Players, Coaches and even Owners are not allowed to talk badly about officiating in the league, but luckily I am. Let's see Goodall's thugs fine me. Confusion? Bah. There's no confusion with what I saw in the last seconds. It was a touchdown. Pure and simple. While I almost always defend the officials in most games, I would quickly investigate this group. With the losses around the nation being in the hundreds of millions of dollars with football betting, I'd need to see what bank transactions the officals in that game have made recently. From the removal of an earlier touchdown due to holding, to the final "confusion" on the last one, I'd say something smells funny. Funny because both times it kept the Steelers under the point spread. Likely it really was just bad officiating, but one can see where those that placed bets would be very angry indeed.
The Steelers were penalized 13 times for 115 yards, while the Chargers were penalized twice for a total of 5 yards. If you watch the game you'll see that James Harrison gets held on nearly every play without once seeing a single flag thrown in his benefit. Yet everytime one of the Steelers made a huge play it was always flagged. That's suspect in the worst of games. Now don't get me wrong here... I still think that the NFL has the best officials of any league sport in the world. And I'm not saying this game was fixed. All I'm suggesting is that in such a lop-sided game of officiating where hundreds of millions of dollars are lost in the betting world, it wouldn't hurt the league in the least to make sure their officials are on the up and up in order to keep this sport the greatest sport around while also keeping their betting fans happy. And since Goodall already has two black eyes from Belicheat, and the Fantasy Fines as I call them, I'd think he'd jump at a chance to show he's a stand up boss and the right guy for running the league. We'll see what happens.
The Recent Past.
While Pittsburgh's game was rough for bettors, it doesn't really compare to week 2 when Ed Huluchi handed the Broncos the win erroniously over the Chargers. San Diego traveled to Denver for this meeting and due to a series of bad calls, San Diego was prevented from walking away with the win. It started with Philip Rivers. He completed a pass to Chris Chambers at the San Diego 29 yard line, so everyone thought. Chambers was down with his elbow when Champ Bailey stripped the ball from him. But the officials mistakenly called it an interception. The call was challenged and Ed Huluchi went over to the side lines to view it. He came back a few minutes later and said that Denver's replay equipment wasn't working properly and that the two minutes for review had passed. The call stood and Denver quickly scored a touchdown. The Chargers swallowed the bitter pill and went on with the game. With under two minutes left, Jay Cutler fumbled the ball and Ed Huluchi blew the play dead, calling it an incomplete pass. The automatic review rules for under two minutes ruled it a fumble but since Huluchi had blown the whistle quickly it stopped the Chargers from taking possesion of the ball. Denver went on to score a touchdown and two point conversion to win the game. I'm sorry doesn't quite fix that mess, yet the NFL thought it was good enough.
The fans of San Diego were rightfully upset with all of this, and who can blame them? So what if Huluchi felt badly for it? Yes, he's a good official. And yes, he didn't intend to make such bad calls. I'm not sure that's good enough for the fans though. Every fan that paid for ticket price and travel fare to Denver should have received something from the NFL. Free tickets and travel fare to the next away game perhaps... Chargers gear... Something. The NFL decided it would tell them they were sorry, but oh well life is hard. We fans already know that life is hard, that's why we travel to other cities to watch our favorite team... So we can relax and forget that life is hard. How about instead, they give out a free signed jersey for each Charger fan that sends in his/her ticket stub for that game? Something even that small would go a long way.
The Near Future.
Cincinatti is drooling at the chance of getting even with Hines Ward this Thursday evening. His hit on Rivers during their last meeting ended badly for Rivers. He got his jaw broke and his season ended. I actually feel badly for Rivers, he's young and trying to make his mark when suddenly BAM he's out for the whole season. On the other hand it's all part of the game, a broken jaw is much better than some of the broken bones you could get in this sport. Needless to say the Bengals will be head hunting for Ward Thursday night, and probably rightfully so in regards to one's team mates looking out for the guy they feel was wronged. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn't. Personally I don't think he was. The point is that the Bengals players feel he was wronged. This creates a unique problem for the Officials during that game. The officials will have to keep their eyes open for this and they know it. While I understand that and agree with it, I also worry that it will take time from their normal duties, and could lead to a worse game outcome than the week before with even more questions about the officiating. In such a short week where the sting of conspiracy is already hitting hard, the officals can not stand to take another hit. This game will be a lose lose situation for them if they aren't picture perfect in keeping the two teams from brawling throughout the game while at the same time keeping the game running smoothly and properly. I'd truely hate to be an official during Thursday night's game. Especially if one team loses a touchdown over a bad call.
The Extended Future.
The sport of professional football is an ever evolving sport, and it becomes more complex with each passing year. The NFL may not want to admit it, but they need full time officials in my opinion. It's hard to fault Green in the Chargers - Steelers game, (providing he's not on the take), or Huluchi in the Chargers - Denver game, when you're talking about guys that do this in their spare time while having full time careers elsewhere. We, as fans, expect them to be near perfect, which can't happen. There is just too much material to digest each year without being dedicated full time to it. The NFL doesn't want to put out the money it would take to employ full time officials, but they are skating on thin ice with it now. If they don't switch to a full time officiating crew they can expect worse outcomes in future games, which in turn means even more irate fans. Angry fans equate to lost revenue. And in a billion dollar industry the NFL can easily afford to hire officials full time. It's not likely going to happen in this league, but I have to wonder... In a league where ticket prices are climbing and everything NFL costs a ton of money, can the NFL afford to lose fans to a cheaper sport? Or to even lose them because they didn't care enough about the fans to see that they were more important than anything else in their business. Baseball didn't pay attention and lost out to the NFL as America's Sport. Will Golf unseat professional football? Or maybe professional thumb wrestling? Like I said above, the sport is ever evolving, and it had better evolve here too. The clock is ticking.