Friday, July 25, 2008

I'm not mad. I'm disappointed.

I've grown to expect the "Top Ten Worst Calls of All Time" features on ESPN and Fox Sports.

But the NFL Network debuted a piece on the "Top 10 Most Controversial Calls" last week. I was so baffled that I Tivoed it. Just watched it now.

There are some great calls on the list (Immaculate Reception has been proven correct by physics professors, as has the Music City Miracle) and one or two misses that even the NFL admits were wrong. I thought maybe, since the NFL wouldn't want to sell its officials down the river, that they might explain "This one was proven right" or even "This one is a subjective call; here's what the official saw and some reasons people might disagree" along with the occasional "We blew that one."

Mike Pereira was on the show, so this was entirely possible. Jerry Markbreit even explained his perspective on the 1978 "Holy Roller" play (he said, from his angle, he couldn't rule whether Stabler threw the ball forward on purpose).

But those moments were rare exceptions. For reasons I do not at all understand, the NFL actually undercut their own officials by providing 60 minutes of airtime to people bitching about their old wounds, frequently without any real explanations about a rule. And since they don't let their officials talk to the media without rarely-granted permission, no active refs could talk about their perspectives on these calls.

If I were an NFL ref, I'd be fuming that the NFL willingly made their own look bad. They didn't focus on what made these calls controversial, or use these calls to educate fans just a little bit about rules or about officiating.

I expect anti-ref propaganda from sports networks--but not from an arm of the league itself.


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