|If spiking the ball is against the rules,|
count me out, No Fun League. (Getty)
I found myself frustrated watching last week's Patriots-Jets game. Not because the Pats won by 21, that was awesome. I was more just irritated by some of the calls the refs did or didn't make. I'm not usually someone to blame a game on the refs, and wouldn't have here, but poor officiating seems to have become an epidemic. It's time we admitted that and worked on finding a cure.
Recently, we saw our Trojans stripped of a fair chance to win by the Pac-12 and the incompetent officials that Commissioner Larry Scott still stands behind (probably because Stanford was one of his bell cows for a National Championship appearance). Officials made an unfair judgment call in taking the final second off the clock when USC could have attempted a game-winning field goal. Then, in double overtime, they spotted the ball eight yards, eight yards, off of where a 10-yard spot foul should have placed the ball. It was closer to being a 10-inch penalty on Stanford than a 10-yarder!
This same incompetence seems to have made its way up to the NFL. It especially seemed to affect the performance of Pats' tight end Rob Gronkowski on Sunday.
Late in the second quarter, Gronk was ruled to have fumbled the ball. Watching in live time on TV, it was obvious to me that his elbow hit the ground with the ball in hand and popped out on impact. Thus, the ground caused the ball to come out and it was down. Yet, some blind official decided it was a fumble and the Jets recovered. Inside two-minutes of the half, the play was immediately reviewed by the booth and immediately overturned by the head official.
Well, duh, right? Right. And, while some see this as a reason we have replay, I see it as laziness on the official's part. I knew it was down watching on TV, Austen knew it was down watching in person, so what lousy referee saw it as a fumble? Back before the days of replay, this official would have been tarred-and-feathered for this kind of a call and I think he used the replay as a cushion to give a poor effort on making a call.
In the third quarter, the booth reviewed another Gronkowski play. This time, a touchdown catch on a play Tom Brady shuffled around for about 10 seconds before finally finding Gronk for a low, diving catch. The play also featured a flag against the Jets for illegal contact in the end zone. The penalty would have given the Pats an automatic first down, but it was obviously declined in favor of the TD.
However, the review determined that while Gronkowski did catch the ball cleanly, he also had stepped out of bounds and come back in for the reception. From a practical standpoint, let me point out that if your pass rush can't tackle an immobile quarterback in the time it takes Gronk to step out, down a Sanchez dog, use the bathroom and return to the field of play, that's on you, Defense! That said, after the review overturned the score, New England should have been rewarded its first down due to the penalty.
It wasn't. Somehow, it was determined that Brady had left the pocket before the illegal contact and thus the penalty was negated. That never seemed to have been communicated to anyone, especially on the broadcast team, outside of the refs small circle. The NBC broadcast took a look at the play and determined Brady ended up only about a step out of the original pocket at any point. I'm not sure which ref was in such good position to see that but couldn't see that Gronkowski had stepped out of bounds!
The final play that bugged me falls more on the shoulders of the NFL. After having his touchdown taken away, Gronkowski scored on the next drive and spiked the ball in celebration. That brought out a flag. A flag? For spiking the ball? Are you kidding me!? Why don't we go back in history and tell Jim Brown, Walter Payton and Terry Bradshaw they can't spike the football when they score!?
In today's NFL of river dancing, two-step shuffling, machine gunning, muscle flexing, chest bumping, fake mooning (Randy Moss), cell phone calling (Joe Horn) and that standard celebration Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith coined at USC back in the glory days where you jump up and crash into the other guy, how is spiking the football where we draw the line!?
When you were a kid and you scored on the playground, which one of those celebrations did you go with? You spiked the football! As far as any of us knew back then, that's just what you did when you scored a touchdown. Players spiked the football and so did you. It's the same as in hockey when you raise your stick because you scored or in baseball where you high-five your team after a home run. It's simple, it's easy, it's old-school and it doesn't offend anyone, except the No Fun League's brass apparently.
I can only assume that some bitter decision maker that wasn't any good at playground football still holds a grudge for getting the ball spiked against his defense so many times during his childhood. Boo hoo! Smarten up, you third grader. Spiking the football is the appropriate way to celebrate a touchdown!