Once the Stanford field goal sailed through the Notre Dame uprights late Saturday night ending any guess as to college football’s final four, a certain ennui has settled over me vis-a-vis the pigskin parade of the past three-plus months.
No more for me the enjoyable ESPN Game Day, the fight songs of so many different schools, the strutting of goofy mascots, the last second wins and losses, the interminable waits until on-the-field calls are upheld or reversed.
The more I talk to fans, the more I hear that incessant reviews of plays from upstairs are taking excitement out of the game and replacing it with anger. Nobody could ever convince me that refs aren’t swayed to some degree by the hundreds of players, coaches, donors, alumni and former players lining the sidelines as well as tens of thousands of fans in the stands screaming that pass interference, real or imagined, be called. And the later in the game, the greater are the number of calls. And because pass interference calls are not reviewable, the ref can’t be held responsible for incorrect calls.
Studies show that 14% of the time, strikes are incorrectly called in MLB and the preponderance of those wrong calls occur in late innings and favor the home team. And that is in a very quiet spectator sport where an occasional missed strike call is not a big deal. But in fan screaming football with sidelines yelling at referees, a last quarter mistake on pass interference can, and often does, determine winner or loser. In such an instance where no review is now allowed, I suggest coaches be able to challenge pass interference calls because it is patently unfair not to.
In the NFL, defensive linemen average 6’5″ and weigh far north of 300. These behemoths have one job. Secure the six-foot lateral area around each of them so opposing running backs average only three yards gained per rush. They live for three-and-outs. Generally bearded and ill-groomed, they are the antithesis of handsome well paid quarterbacks. We don’t know their names. We don’t want to know their names. Lately, tired of laboring in darkness, they have taken to emulating their more athletic teammates in celebrating individual achievements as simple as plopping on a fumbled pigskin bouncing at their feet or getting hit in the head with a forward pass. They are terrible at these displays. Some have invented signature dance routines complete with a pirouette and chest thump. All that’s missing is a titanic tutu. It should be stopped lest the NFL fall even more deeply into the “I” of the individual rather than the “we” of the team.
The CFP Final Four came out last night with no surprises and perhaps just a hint of a wild card. Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Iowa are the top four selections in order with Michigan State fifth and Ohio State sixth. Clemson and Alabama play toughies North Carolina and Florida, respectively, while Oklahoma is off. If all teams in the top four win, that’ll be the Final Four. However, if either or both Clemson and Alabama lose, that’ll open the door for Ohio State to get in. The winner of the Big Ten Championship game between Iowa and Michigan State is also a lock for the Final Four.
Hut one, Hut two….