Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly did everything but propose to New England tight end Rob Gronkowski on the final play of the Monday Night Football game.
By now, you’ve seen the play numerous times. You’ve decided whether you think the call should have
been made or not. But if you’ve decided there wasn’t a penalty on the play – which resulted in an interception of a Tom Brady pass as the Patriots were trying to cap a game-winning drive – then you’re just not paying attention.
Kuechly was all over Gronkowski and well before the pass arrived in the end zone. Yes, Brady’s pass was under-thrown. He didn’t give it enough zip. But Kuechly’s swarming of Gronkowski kept the tight end from making a play on the football.
I’m not saying that making a play on the football would have resulted in a touchdown. Chances are, Gronkowski would not have been able to get back to the football. But he’s a gifted receiver with great hands. How many times have we seen an NFL receiver make a pass we thought he had no chance of making?
Point is: The refs blew it when they overturned the flag that was originally thrown by the back judge and was intended to penalize Kuechly. By ruling the pass uncatchable, the refs made a determination that nobody who was watching the game would have or could have made.
To say the ball was uncatchable is nothing more than an opinion. In some cases, such a ruling is obvious. Had Brady thrown the ball 10 feet over Gronkowski’s head, of course the ball is uncatchable. But this wasn’t like that.
The decisions of officials based on unclear rules is threatening not only the NFL, but certainly college basketball.
Nobody seems to be entirely clued in on what the new rules for defensive engagement are and what they look like. And more than a couple of games so far have been made difficult to watch by an abundance of foul calls and the resulting free throws.
Memo to the powers that be in college basketball: Nobody watches this sport because of free throws. In fact, free throws are a drain on the sport. They slow down the pace of the game and are the major flaw of an otherwise exquisite sport. When Dr. James Naismith was inventing basketball back in the day, I wish he had come up with something other than free throws to penalize a team that committed a foul.
Baseball has legislative issues, too. In 2014, Major League Baseball will adopt a policy to, based on managerial challenges, review everything but balls, strikes and foul tips. A game already indicted because of its pace will become even slower, all in the name of getting calls right.
I’m not against getting calls right. I think calls need to be right. And in the age of super slow motion and incessant replays, the sports-viewing public will no longer accept blown calls.
But there will be a cost for this adherence to perfection. And I’m of the opinion that sports were never meant to be perfect, anyway.
Umpires have been blowing calls for more than a century. Basketball officials often seem to be making it up as they go along. There are times when football crew don’t seem to have been near a rule book for 10 years.
It’s maddening, but so human. And my fear is that once the human element starts to disappear, especially from baseball, that the game will lose its charm.
There didn’t used to be stoppages of basketball games to check the monitor except under the most extreme circumstances. Now there’s a stoppage, it seems, every couple of minutes.
The same is true for football, where every turnover and touchdown is double-checked.
Again, it’s good to be attentive to detail. But when every turnover and touchdown is scrutinized, yet a play like the one in the end zone on the final play of the Monday night game is overturned without even much of a discussion, the appearance is that these games still are closer to anarchy than those who oversee them would like us to think.