Ah, sports columnists….
So right after Mitch Albom tells you “Forget the controversial almost-touchdown by Calvin Johnson that nearly won the game,” he writes 647 words about the controversial almost-touchdown by Calvin Johnson that nearly won the game. It’s a good thing I forgot about the controversial almost-touchdown by Calvin Johnson that nearly won the game before I read the column about the controversial almost-touchdown by Calvin Johnson that nearly won the game, because it was like reading a totally new story with which I was unfamiliar!
Anyway, as to the play in question, here’s the thing: for the first 80 or so years of this league, that’s a touchdown. Some time in the last few years, we started reducing football to a subatomic level. In our quest to make sure every call is correct, we’ve started analyzing slow-motion replays over and over, more closely than we used to squint and try to make out the shadowy figures in scrambled porn in the pre-internet days1.
And for what? What are we trying to accomplish? Taking a game played and officiated by humans and trying to turn it into a physics lab?
How come you can be down by contact when a defender brushes by you, but there’s a higher burden of proof when catching a ball and going to the ground? What are we accomplishing here, besides absurdly extending the length of games and deflating its emotion with interminable delays? When the guy sitting at home can see within 20 seconds and two replays whether a guy was inbounds or out of bounds, fumbled or didn’t fumbled, yet it takes five minutes (and a commercial break, let us not forget) for the booth or the referee to come to the same conclusion, what is wrong with this picture?
Technology is great. We should avail ourselves of whatever we have available to avoid egregious miscarriages of justice. But it’s reached the point where we’re arguing about angstroms2 and whether or not the ball moved or didn’t move from the time it reached a receiver’s hands until it is painted and put up on his mantel. If it was good enough for Lance Alworth, why isn’t it good enough now?
Now, I don’t have a horse in this race (though my team has been on the short end of one of these types of deals before), but I’ll say this: the call was correct based on a rule that needs to be revisited. In our quest to be cutting-edge, we’ve lost something that used to be great about football: you lined up and played and hit and ran and threw and if you got beat over the top for the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds, well, that’s the way it was. Now every close touchdown is a five-minute anticlimax while we try to make Extra Special Sure that the ball didn’t move, even an inch.
Fanboys like this jagov can never seem to wipe the spittle away from their mouths3 long enough to have a rational discussion of this, but the simple facts are these: that’s the rule, and they’re not changing it until next winter at the earliest (if they do at all, and former NFL officiating honcho Mike Pereira doesn’t think it’s all that likely).
I hope they do. But I’m not optimistic. Maybe we just don’t have enough irate columnists and YouTube videos to make a difference.
1 – I didn’t do this, Mom, seriously. I only heard about it.
2 – I think it goes back to the Music City Miracle, which had teams of scientists trying to prove the ball’s trajectory may have been forward by a half inch. To which I say, “You know what? If we have to call the MIT guys in on this it’s probably close enough. Let’s play.”
3 – I think it’s hilarious that fans lose their shit while the guy whose actual livelihood depends on his team winning games is as okay with the whole thing as you can be under the circumstances. Wait, you mean he didn’t make a profane YouTube rant? Really?