Joe & Joe Sports is excited to offer yet another piece of breaking sports news. We have confirmed with sources familiar with the situation that NFL referee Ed Hochuli is in fact a human being, and not a cyborg, built for melee combat and roughing the passer calls, as has been suggested in the past. Turns out, he requires calories for sustenance, breathes Earth air, and has virtually no interest in storing electricity in his legs and abdomen.
Jesus Christ, people. The guy is a referee who made a bad call. We've seen hundreds of them. You'll see five or six a game, and a few more no calls. People talked about it on Monday, that's understandable. People talked about it on Tuesday, which was a little weird because of how explosive a game we had on Monday night, but fans will be fans, I guess. But it's Friday. There are some fantastic matchups coming up this weekend, including Steelers/Eagles, Cowboys/Packers, and a Vikings team that needs a win more than anybody taking on Carolina, who's 2-0 and is about to get their best player back in Steve Smith.
But if you go to ESPN.com (which I try not to do; what a jumbled up mess that page is), Hochuli being "devastated" is the second story under "news." What is wrong with sports fans where they won't just let a regular season referee mistake get chalked up as exactly that? It was a blown call, and it happens. Getting crazy and demanding recourse is just stupid.
Even stupider, however, are the comments that people have made this week. Chip told me that Michael Wilbon suggested that the whistle not be the end of a play anymore. What? Are you insane? If you don't use the whistle as the end of a play, then everyone will get hurt every week, because nobody will stop playing. The whistle has to be the end of the play. The only thing you can do is tell your referees, "Don't blow the whistle unless you're sure." Seems reasonable, right? Seems like a way to be sure that you get every call correct, right? And isn't that what we're all really interested in anyways, getting the calls right and letting the game be settled by the players' abilities to succeed within the rules?
The real problem here isn't Hochuli. It isn't even the situation with the whistle, not directly at least. The reason you have to blow the whistle as soon as you're ready to make a call is the flawed replay system in football. Coaches make challenges? They get two opportunities to challenge a play, and if they're right on both, they get a third. So we know that there are never more than 3 close plays in a game? Oh, and they're tied to timeouts, so if you burn your timeouts early, then you could get screwed at the 6-minute mark and have no recourse. A wrong call is upheld because of a technicality. Americans hate technicalities, they often vote in elections based on which candidate says he'll eliminate more loopholes.
I don't understand the bogus idea that the decision to review plays should be in the hands of a coaching staff. They took the concept from the American legal system, where the lawyers make objections and the judge interprets the law. But in a courtroom, there's no limit on the number of objections a lawyer can make, even if you get a few overruled. The instant replay system was implemented because fans wanted to see more plays called correctly. The limitation is supposed to prevent the game from going on too long, but I honestly don't think fans would care if the game was a half hour longer and they got every call right. With the current system, challenges give both fans and commentators a chance to catch up, and give them something to discuss. Reviews are good television.
Here's the deal. Replays should be completely out of the hands of the coaching staffs. The NFL makes enough money that they should be able to hire a couple more referees for each game who review every play as it happens and signal down if the play needs to be reviewed. I've thought this was the system they should use since they started using instant replay; I was right then, and I'm right now. Getting the calls correct has to be the #1 priority.
Back to the earlier point, the reason referees have to make a call on a fumble or an incomplete pass is that they can't just not make a call and force a review every time, because you'll have coaches burning their challenges and timeouts early, and that changes the complexion of the game. The way to keep football clean is to give the league control over the review process, as it should always have been.
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