It’s August and Football’s Already Started

It’s August.
Can football be far behind?
Actually, it’s already started.
The NFL pre-season has already begun with the annual Hall of Fame contest in Canton, Ohio in concert with the induction of the latest group elected to the shrine.

All 32 teams are in the midst of training camp and the pre-season games will start for all the rest of the league, after the Broncos and Falcons played the first game last week.

We can talk of the prospects, probable playoff and Super Bowl contenders, and everything else.
But the big headline surrounds rules and replay.
Not forgotten is the NFC Championship Game last January when Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis early on a third down play late in the fourth quarter.
No penalty was called.
It was an obvious foul.
The Rams went on to win the game and reach the Super Bowl.
Afterwards there was outrage from Saints fans, coaches and execs.
Had the proper call been made, the Saints were in prime position to win in regulation time.
In overtime, the Saints had a chance to win, but the Rams outlasted New Orleans.
There is no guarantee the Saints would have won had the correct call been made. But it wasn’t.  And it left a bad taste throughout the NFL.

Fast-forward to the coming season.
And there’s a big change in the rules.
Coaches will now be able to challenge an officials’ call or even a non-call of both pass interference, and offensive pass interference.
Coaches are allowed two challenges a game, three if they’re successful on one of them.
During the last two minutes of the half, and the end of the game, there is a booth review, meaning no challenge by the coaches, but it’s reviewed by the referee with strong assistance by those officials viewing the play at offices in New York.

I don’t want to turn this into an officiating clinic, and to many this treatise has become boring already, but if you watch pro football, this ruling will be a major factor in many games.
The key is that there will have to be clear and obvious visual evidence to reverse an officials call on the field. Also, the contact made, either by a defender or a receiver, must significantly hinder the other player.
All that sounds nice.
But happenings in sports, and in life, are in the eyes of the beholder.
Not simple and cut-and-dried.
The rule is going in for one year only.
Then it will be reviewed.
I think it will be a one-year rule.

I have two thoughts, and then we will move on to something else.

The league cannot continue to chase it’s tail on rules, under the mantra of “making sure we get it right”.
In the NFC Championship Game it was a missed pass interference call.
This year, it might be a helmet-to-helmet contact, or a holding penalty, or an intentional grounding call.
I’ve always contended there is no such thing as always “getting it right”.
Players make bad mistakes, so do coaches, so do General Managers, and so do officials.
I think replay has gotten out of hand, and it doesn’t seem we’re headed to the end of the road on this.


NFC Championship Game No Call


My second thought is really my biggest.
Sports is entertainment. Thousands watch in person, millions watch on television.
What makes it special is the fact that games are unscripted, with a drama that really can’t be matched.
Now, it seems, whenever there is a long, significant pass play resulting in a touchdown or a big gain, the euphoria of the moment will be blunted by viewers, and players, waiting to see whether a flag is thrown by an official, or by a coach, in the form of a challenge.
That includes the attempted Hail Mary pass into the end zone in a last-ditch try to pull a game out. That too, can be challenged.
Is that what we all want?
Hold back on our emotions to wait and see?
I think not.
So, we will all wait and see, how the new rule pans out.

Switching gears.

Some of you will remember the great radio commentator Paul Harvey who was nationally-renowned for 66 years reaching as many as 24 million people a week.
His final report was in 2008, but he will always be known for his famous The Rest of the Story segments.

Paul Harvey

Well, here goes my version of The Rest of the Story, dealing with my column of last week relating my history and love of music.
A departure, for sure, from the world of sports.
But one which garnered more reaction from people than any other I’ve offered.

It seems in discussing some great standards, such as “Moon River”, and “The Days of Wine and Roses”, I was rhapsodizing over the brilliant lyricist, Johnny Mercer.
Mercer, in my view, is the most prolific in his field, and if you check out his work, you’ll be amazed.
What I failed to do was credit the man who wrote the melody to the songs mentioned above, and countless others.
You’ll recognize his name more than Johnny Mercer’s.
His name is Henry Mancini.

Henry Mancini

The word “genius” is thrown around far too much.
But I believe someone who creates a melody or writes words to fit that melody, or vice versa,  is truly a “genius”.
Especially when the finished product stands the test of time for decades, or forever.
There was a time, when visiting my late, wonderful agent Ed Hookstratten in California, I played the piano in his house.
He told me the piano was a gift from Henry Mancini.
It took my breath away.

And thats The Rest of the Story!




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