In a perfect world – and, boy oh boy, at the moment we are so far from a perfect world, it feels like I’m subletting a studio in Dante’s Inferno – I would never write another column about officiating.
I am now writing another column about officiating.
This is unfortunate, because over the last generation, Sports Nation obsesses over all the calls. As I have pointed out maybe 72 or 73 times, this is largely an offshoot of replay as an officiating tool – we no longer watch the games the same way; we now view them through the prism of whether any and every play should be looked at again from a refereeing standpoint.
What a lousy way to ruin the blissful joy of taking in sports.
There is an old truism:
If you don’t notice the officials, they are doing a good job.
(Same thing usually holds true for an officiant at a wedding.)
But it’s next-to-impossible not to notice the officials anymore since that’s all we’re focused on.
The thing is, officiating hasn’t necessarily gotten worse than, say, 25 or 50 years ago; we just pay more attention to it than 25 or 50 years ago.
Alas, we are in the midst of the NFL postseason, where each play is parsed down to the last cleat and any call can change the fate of the outcome, and by extension, the fate of many lives for years to come.
On Saturday, during the Lions-Seahawks wild-card game, on a fourth-down touchdown reception by Seattle’s Paul Richardson in which Detroit’s Tavon Wilson was correctly flagged for pass interference, Richardson clearly grabbed and twisted Wilson’s facemask while making the catch. Grabbed and twisted it IN BROAD DAYLIGHT – well, actually, it was nighttime – but no penalty was called.
This is where I normally tells fans to chill – these games should be fun, so crack a Yuengling, slap a slice of cheddar on a Ritz and take it all in with the wonder of an 8-year-old seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time.
But I cannot tell others to relax, in good conscience, when I cannot relax myself. And all of my chronic, internal suffering – we’re talking hemorrhoids, we’re talking kidney stones, we’re talking irritable bowel syndrome – was recently exacerbated because of an official NFL explanation of game calls on snow angels.
Yes, snow angels.
In Week 13, 49ers cornerback Rashard Robinson celebrated a would-be touchdown at snowy Soldier Field with a snow angel in the end zone – and got penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Meanwhile, Packers receiver Randall Cobb celebrated a score at snowy Lambeau Field with a snow angel – and was not penalized.
Apparently – according to the league – similar to the fact that no two snowflakes are alike, no two snow angels are alike.
I now present the explication provided by Dean Blandino, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, as heard on NFL Network:
“The rule states you cannot celebrate on the ground, and we’re talking about excessive, choreographed (acts). I think our officials used some discretion (in Green Bay). It was just a spontaneous thing. (Cobb) is on the ground, made a quick snow angel and got back up. We didn’t flag it. … We don’t want to take the emotion out and the spontaneity out of the game.”
On the other hand, Blandino said, Robinson’s snow angel was too long with too many teammates reveling.
“I understand the questions about, ‘Why is one snow angel illegal and why is one legal?’… If it does become excessive, multiple players getting involved, celebrating on the field, that’s when it becomes a flag.”
First of all, Couch Slouch wants everyone to mull over the words, “Why is one snow angel illegal and why is one legal?”
(We recommend you read that question outloud to appreciate its full effect.)
Secondly, this is my take on Blandino’s philosophical position here:
If Santa Claus were to show up at his front door on Christmas Eve, Blandino would invite him in. But if Santa showed up with all his reindeer, Blandino’s calling the cops.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Why is it that when a football team likes to throw downfield, the commentators say they are going “vertical?” Since vertical indicates a straight line upwards, wouldn’t going “linear” or even “horizontal” be both visually and geometrically more accurate? (Charles James Nash, Jr.; Gaithersburg, Md.)
A. Similarly, basketball announcers say shots from beyond the 3-point line are from “downtown,” when they are clearly from “uptown.”
Q. If politicians could be dealt the way baseball players are, whom would you trade for? (Jed Duvall; Amissville, Va.)
A. I would try to acquire Machiavelli, I guess – everyone out there is so Machiavellian these days, might as well go for The Original.
Q. Will President-elect Donald Trump make weddings great again? (Wes O’Donnell; Centreville, Va.)
A. Odds are one of us will.
Q. Is it true that the NCAA will now allow its student-athletes to skip their Astrophysics final exam because it might hurt their chances to go pro as a rocket scientist? (Patrick Brown; Annapolis, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Norman Chad is a syndicated columnist. You can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
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