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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

After further review… bag it

Norman Chad The Spokesman-Review

Replay as an officiating tool remains this nation’s Achilles’ heel. There is perhaps no greater threat – other than talk radio – to democracy in America. Left intact, replay eventually will destroy our greatest natural resource, the NFL.

We were lucky that last weekend’s playoff games were not ruined by replay. In all likelihood, we will not be as fortunate with the conference championship games or Super Bowl 41.

As players ran off the field at the end of the first half in Saturday’s Eagles-Saints game, New Orleans coach Sean Payton wanted referee Mike Carey to review the Hail Mary pass to Marques Colston ruled an incompletion. This sets up the possibility that one day teams could be in the locker room and find out THE SCORE HAS CHANGED.

(Note: I apologize to long-time sufferers of this column, tired of my replay rantings. Even as a boy, Couch Slouch complained about only two things: Instant replay and pay toilets.)

Our day of reckoning is coming and the head reckoner will be none other than Ed Hochuli.

When I venture into a sports bar on an NFL Sunday, two cries punctuate the Bud-stained air all afternoon: Either a fantasy freak yelling out, “That’s a sack, that’s a sack!” or a non-fantasy freak shouting out, “Throw the challenge flag, man!”

We have created a nation of at-home referees, each bent on officiating the game rather than appreciating the game.

The best thing is to snap the ball, run the play, make the call and move on. It’s a purer viewing experience that way. But when you snap the ball, run the play, make the call and then stop to debate the merits of the call for several minutes, it’s like going to Sunday dinner at the Osbournes, where you’re worn out before the spam loaf is even served.

What everybody should do – and this is not going to happen – is take a step back, take a deep breath and take away this replay mentality. We all need to watch the games as if it’s 1982 again – treat them more like “Cagney & Lacey” than “CSI: Miami.”

When you pause to review, you create another layer of broadcasting bombast and you don’t even get the call right all of the time.

Think how often an announcer – ESPN’s Joe Theismann comes to mind – will make a beyond-a-shadow-of-a- doubt proclamation about a call after seeing a single replay, then reverse his dyed-in-the-wool opinion after seeing another replay. Which visual truth is the actual truth?

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a questionable red challenge flag thrown, watched countless replays indicating that there’s NO way the call can be overturned – and then the call is overturned.

(If replay were used in the 2000 election, Al Gore would be president today.)

Yet Cris Collinsworth, during an NFL Network telecast this season, suggested that replay needs to expand its province. He argued, somewhat persuasively, that pass interference often is such a game-changer – it can cost one team 30 or 40 yards and set up the other team at the 1-yard line – it’s preposterous not to consider it as judiciously as possible.

Ah, but this is a slippery slope that will lead us down a paralyzing path. Where does it all end? In baseball, for instance, if the bases are loaded in the bottom of the ninth with the home team trailing, 5-4, and, on a 3-2 pitch, there’s a called third strike to end the game, why wouldn’t you look at that again?

Alas, when it comes down to reviewing the spotting of the ball, it’s time to reflect on lives gone awry.

Here is Rule 15, Section 9 from the NFL Rulebook: “A decision will be reversed only when the referee has indisputable visual evidence available to him that warrants the change.”

Indisputable visual evidence.

Waking up to a horse head in your bed, compliments of Vito Corleone, is indisputable visual evidence.

Donald Trump’s hair is indisputable visual evidence.

Everything else is shadows and fog, and, frankly, quite disputable.

Ask The Slouch

Q. If I recall correctly, NFL officials used to carry pistols to signal the end of each quarter. Why did they stop doing this? (Dave Gehrke; Brookfield, Wis.)

A. By the end of the season, Tank Johnson had them all.

Q. Can Urban Meyer ever reside in a rural area? (Bob Obrist; Arlington, Va.)

A. Well, Downtown Julie Brown now lives in the suburbs.

Q. If and when Mark McGwire gets elected to the Hall of Fame, can he reject induction and say “I will not accept because I decline to talk about the past”? (Gerry Nelson; Glenside, Pa.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.