Volume 92, Issue 56

Thursday, January, 1999

in the books


Moss, Petrie named to national varsity team

Neufeld strokes to national honours

Referees have become the scapegoats for NFL losers

Holiday Recap

Referees have become the scapegoats for NFL losers

The fans in Buffalo and Green Bay are screaming for the return of instant replay to the National Football League. I have two words for you – shut up!

Yes, both of these teams could still be alive in the play-offs if the referee had the option of going upstairs to a video jockey breaking the game down to super slow motion. But that is part of the game. Mistakes happen. The referee is no more human then a quarterback or the water boy.

And that is probably where most of the problems lie – fans see the referee as more mechanical than human. You never see the referee making public appearances or reading insightful life stories on the men in the white and black stripes. The fans' connection to these men is the yellow flag and strange body gestures which indicate what penalty has been called. They make the right call on such a high percentage of cases that they seem almost robotic. So it makes sense that when they screw up everyone screams in disbelief.

Quarterbacks blow calls on a regular basis, but it's expected. Fans see them on a more identifiable level.

A couple of the calls on the weekend were wrong and quite costly to a pair of NFL teams. A missed touchdown call cost the Bills six points. A fumbled completion which was never called allowed the San Francisco 49ers to move on after a last minute come back against the Packers.

Both of those calls were human error. Odds are calls will be made in the favour of the losing team somewhere down the line. I realize that doesn't help them in their broken quest for the Super Bowl, but it is reality. Mistakes are part of the game.

Don't get me wrong – this isn't coming from a traditionalist who demands players return to wearing leather helmets and play on grass fields. However, the alternative to trusting the referee is the instant replay.

Think about that option for one second. Every questionable call during a game will need to be double-checked. The momentum of the game will be destroyed. The trust in the ref will waver and eventually lose any sort of meaning. That's not the way the game was invented and is not a route the league should take.

The league tried using the instant replay years ago and discovered this for themselves. Making the same mistake twice would just be stupid. The National Hockey League is the only professional institution to use such measures now and most would agree the constant delay to await the decision of the goal judge takes away from the emotion of the game.

Football should remain pure to its origins on this one. Let the referees make their calls. There are no conspirators plotting against a certain team, the refs are neutral and honest. The occurrences of error are rare and even in the most heated post season battles you cannot turn to one or two plays during a game to explain why a team lost. Victory in football takes hundreds of calls by the coaches and adjustments by the players.

If you are going to whine and say it is the referees' fault the Bills are cleaning out their lockers right now, what do you have to say about the key fumbles and interceptions by quarterback Doug Flutie? Is Flutie not more to blame for the loss than the referee?

Simply put, the referee has become the scapegoat for teams which have fallen to defeat. Instant replay will not solve anything. It will just mean fans and coaches will need to find something else to whine about.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999