Pete Morelli and his crew were able to stop time at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The review of the Aaron Rodgers fumble/incomplete pass took about 10 minutes in real time. It felt like forever. I was running around the house and actually was able to load the fireplace with fresh wood, and start a fire from scratch - ALL WHILE they were dithering over this one play, in a game that had already been blown wide open.
As Dave Barry likes to say: "I am not making this up."
The "whoosh" from the crumpled newspaper had just engulfed my logs in a pleasing inferno, I stepped back to admire my work, then glanced over at the TV and thought: "Holy shit, they are STILL on this play?"
But alas, replay fanatics will say that nothing is more important than "getting the call right."
So what if it takes 10 minutes of watching your beer ice over in the stands? Right, things must be RIGHT! At all times. Always. And how do we know what "right" is? Well, we have RULE books, and the rules are simple, except when they are not.
And plays on the field, with the aid of 30 frames-per-second of 1080 interlaced lines of high definition video, from multiple camera angles, simply can NEVER be wrong!
Except when they are wrong. Or most people think the call is still wrong.
It only takes one referee, who has to walk to his car after the game, to make a HUMAN judgement on all those lines of resolution and still frames of video.
His opinion, vs. the world.
This is not science. There is no such thing as "conclusive evidence."
And so now, the replay system in the NFL, with its myriad of mechanisms, produces such grotesque interruptions of games, and an often oddly distorted sense of "hey, was that really fair?"
Imagine if you had to EXPLAIN the replay system to a complete football novice from another country? It would go something like this.
Replay is simple....
Either coach can challenge a call by the referees in the game.
Except holding, pass interference, personal fouls, and well, many many other things.
But you can challenge fumbles, catches, in/out of bounds and interceptions.
When the whistle blows, the play is not necessarily over.
If a guy recovers a fumble, after the whistle, and they *think* he wasn't helped by the whistle, that's okay.
You only get two challenges per game.
You can't challenge a play after the next play has been run, no matter what.
If you are RIGHT on both challenges, you get one more. But that's it, win or lose.
Losing a challenge costs you a timeout.
If you are out of timeouts, you are out of challenges.
Under 2 minutes in each half, the wise men in the booth call for challenges.
If you think they have missed a big one, too bad, you may not challenge. Ever.
All scoring plays are challenged. Except field goals that are over the top of the goalpost.
These challenges are "free" because the booth conducts them.
However, if a player is wrongly ruled to have not scored a TD, then you have to spend a challenge.
Sorry if you don't have one.
Replays can only take 90 seconds, because we gotta keep things moving.
Wait, what? Never mind. Nobody has enforced that last one in years.
Compounding this weekly nonsense, is the NFL's rash of safety related "points of emphasis." These are "rules" which are more like "guidelines" because every referee has his own "guess" as to how strict to enforce them.
Hits on QB's are the most controversial.
In the Redskins-Patriots game, QB Rex Grossman, scrambling from pressure, fading away, threw a wounded duck that was picked off. However, because DE Andre Carter dove at him as he was fading away, and grazed his legs, the play was ruled "roughing the passer."
Because once upon a time, a very popular quarterback named "Tom Brady" got hit in his leg and missed an entire season. As you recall, the league suffered massive financial losses, and almost had to cancel the Super Bowl due to lack of interest.
Oh, wait, no they didn't.
Not a goddamn thing happened bad to the league because of that. One bad thing happened to one popular player, and the NFL went and turned the rule book into something more restrictive than "date night" at the Duggar household.
So if you are a Redskins fan, you are secretly fist pumping like mad on your sofa at this call, because it was like stealing a car in broad daylight, and then watching the cop who is chasing you drive right into a train.
But alas, karma, and the NFL rulebook is a bitch, because later in the game, this same "very popular player", Tom Brady, runs for a first down, and gets his ass whomped real good because he's so damn slow, he even slides slow.
You see, if a QB slides, you can't hit him. At all. Anywhere. But if he's not YET sliding, then he's fair game. When does a "slide" begin? I don't know. Conception? Ask the Duggars.
So even though London Fletcher is one of the most straight-up, clean tackling, good-guy, anti-James Harrison linebackers the league has ever known, the referee decides he better "even things up" just a bit from the previous horseshit call.
And this referee, mind you, one Jeff Triplette, fucked up a few weeks ago by not knowing the overtime rules format for the regular season, which of course, is now DIFFERENT from the post-season. He's also a referee who blinded an offensive lineman by firing his lead-filled penalty flag into his eye.
(I seriously can't remember an NFL referee ever getting FIRED, for just plain sucking. Except for maybe the infamous Phil Luckett, who jacknifed an overtime coin-toss, requested to be demoted "back judge" and then was likely shot in the head in the Vegas desert by a league office goon. I haven't seen that beak-nosed loser in some time. Have you?)
On top of all of this, Triplette just kinda "wings it" out there on calls, quite often picking up flags, claiming there was no penalty on the play.
So after talking with a few guys on his crew while Fletcher went positively crazy in disbelief, Triplette decides he would just "wing it" one more time on this call, and claim that Fletcher had hit Brady in the HEAD with an elbow, which would, technically, be a penalty.
Replay, however, proved otherwise. Unless Tom Brady's "head" is in an area commonly referred to as your "stomach."
Oh, boy wouldn't it have been nice to challenge that one!
Ha! Guess what! You can't suckers!
Because we want these games to be RIGHT, no matter how complicated getting the calls RIGHT might be, or how long it may take. But we admit, there's only so much "right" that we can massage into a game of human error and almost comical rule book complexity.
So on the game went, when the Redskins managed to tie the game with a TD pass to Santana Moss in the final two minutes. Except there was a flag for "offensive pass interference" nullifying the score - a call about as rare as somebody being prosecuted for firing their musket in a crowded saloon.
The Columbia Broadcasting System, which was telecasting this game to the home audience, understood the gravity of this crushing judgement call, which was not reviewable by replay, and as such... decided to NEVER SHOW THE PLAY AGAIN!
The highly paid announcers also moved along briskly, hardly mentioning the call at all.
And then there was this Al Riveron abortion in the "Don't Call Us Phoenix" Cardinals game....