“Sports is entertainment. Thousands watch in person, millions watch on television.
What makes it special is the fact that games are unscripted, with 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 the game out.
That too, can be challenged.
Is that what we all want?
I think not. So, we will wait and see, how the new rule pans out.”
The reason the above section is in quotes, is because I wrote those words in mid-August.
This represented my thoughts on the new pass interference rules in the NFL, which were adopted because of the obvious failure of a clear-as-day pass interference play in the NFC Championship game between the Saints and Rams last January.
A one-year rule was installed to work on eliminating such gaffes by the officials which could affect the outcome of a game.
We are six weeks into the season, and it appears this rule will be just that. A one-year rule.
Any time the words “indisputable visual evidence” and “significantly hinder” are employed, you know it all is in the eyes of the beholder.
What the league has done, is make it really difficult for a call on the field to be overturned.
This, to discourage the onslaught of challenges by coaches to extend the game and force a game to constantly be halted.
The new plan isn’t working. All it has done is place still another layer on the response to officials’ calls and the ability for coaches to challenge something that hasn’t been called on the field.
What the league should do is focus on their own officials.
I have respect for the men who serve as NFL officials for a game that is faster than ever, where subtle moves that may indeed be a foul are common.
The simple truth, is that the game, and all the things that are appealing to its fans, is, and has been, affected negatively by the officials.
I’m talking about the sheer entertainment of a wonderful spectacle.
There are games in which a yellow flag is thrown continually, making the contest almost unwatchable.
There will always be the contention that if a foul is committed, a flag has to be thrown.
But how much is that theory ruining the entertainment of watching the sport?
Too many play stoppages are discouraging.
I know, there are calls made during games, that don’t significantly alter the play on the field.
Either the foul occurred away from the ball, or the foul itself was not serious.
I guess what I’m saying is that the men in the striped shirts should use the by-words of changing a call:
indisputable evidence, or significantly hinder.
Those of us who have watched the game for many decades enjoyed pro football without repeatedly commenting on the officials. There was no demand for more penalty flags.
I realize the speed and violence of the game has changed dramatically.
But the same rules should apply.
A helmet-to-helmet that can do damage to a player is obvious. Some are not.
Holding by an offensive lineman is obvious. Some of them are not.
Pass interference should be an obvious call, and so should many others.
They should not be analyzed frame-by-frame in reviews.
An official should not be a policeman in the strictest fashion. He should officiate by his gut reaction.
Mistakes are made by players, coaches, and yes, officials.
If the league were to tell these men who perform a difficult and important task to relax, call what you see, and make sure it’s meaningful, I think the game, as we see it, would improve.
And never, ever, should it ever be said that an official’s call decided a game.
The key here is in one basic word. Judgment.
Now, I will rest my case.
When I was a kid, I would watch the NFL, and marvel how a game shown on TV late in the afternoon would be played in sunshine, when it was sheer darkness outside where I lived.
I never understood how this game I was viewing would be played in warm weather, when it was a cold December Sunday where I was.
I would watch the Rams play in that great Coliseum in Los Angeles, or the San Francisco 49ers in Kezar Stadium.
When I first started seeing these games, they were televised in black and white, in the early to mid-fifties.
I was enthralled. Imagine, all the action around the league had ended, except for the Rams and 49ers, on the
west coast, if they were playing at home.
I was told about time zones, and why it was bright out west when it was dark back east.
Then, I understood.
Last Sunday, I put myself back into that time as I broadcast the 49ers-Rams game in the LA Coliseum.
I was a kid again.
And for the first time, both teams were winners, something they haven’t always been.
During the broadcast, we showed some of the stars from the fifties, when it all began out west in the NFL.
Names such as Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, and Y.A. Tittle were represented on the screen, in black and white,of course, and I loved it.
Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch
The 49ers came into the game unbeaten at 4-0. The Rams, who came within a game of the Super Bowl last season were 3-2, but had lost their last two.
I figured the Rams would rebound and win for several reasons.
Having licked their wounds and needing to get back to the elite of the NFC, I was of the mind the 49ers, who had achieved their early perfect record against teams with losing records, would lose on the road against a hungry team, a loss that would be totally understandable and not damage their long-term hopes.
I was wrong.
After the Rams drove down the field, running seven straight plays for a touchdown, the 49ers took control.
Their vastly improved defense shut down the Rams the rest of the way, and coasted to a 20-7 victory.
Niners whip Rams
When you’re within something like 13 points of a team, you are certainly in range.
But this game was nowhere near the closeness of the score.
The 49ers outplayed the Rams throughout, and now, at 5-0, they are the real thing.
For the LA Rams. Time to go back to the drawing board.
But to be broadcasting the kind of game I watched as a youngster, in the bright sunshine of the Los Angeles
Memorial Coliseum, was magic.
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