Hey, hey, hey. No, yin and yang; this is not the alter ego of Bill Cosby, ‘Fat Albert speaking to you. This is one helluva relieved football scribe who is very, very glad that the “regular” refs are back patrolling the sidelines of the NFL.
Oh, please tarry with me just for a “momento,” because there are a few voices or should I say a “chorale” of voices telling me all different sorts of things. One is being belligerent calling me a slew full of the names. One of the names that my “inner tenor” keeps whispering so low that it is barely audible is the name, hippo, hippo, hypocrite. I respond with a question. “Why are you calling me hypocrite, inner one?” The voice inside is getting louder now. “Well you see ‘peanut’, you and every man, woman, child who loves and covers the NFL keeps harping about the lack of quality of the now former NFL replacement officials.” I counter with, “What part of incompetent don’t you understand?” “Well for one thing I need to have a serious one on one conference with you. Do you have an hour or two?” “Oh sure,” I am thinking to myself, “I always have an hour or two to talk to myself; what’s up?”
“Well first things first.” Now the voice is becoming nastier and more formal. “Do you remember Friar Tuck; the slightly obese aficionado of barley and hops; the guy who helped Robin Hood to steal from the rich, so he and his boys could become rich?” “Yeah I remember the good friar. But I thought Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor.” The voice is getting impatient now. “Whatever, hey ‘nut’ will you just shut up and listen. The “regular” refs had a Saturday Night Live moment in January of 2002. The New England Patriots were at home playing the Oakland Raiders in an AFC divisional playoff game.
The Raiders had their foot on the Patriots neck and it looked as though New England might be going home with their heads hung low. “Terrific” Tom Brady was hit from behind by Raiders DB Charles Woodson, causing him to lose control of the ball as he tried to pull the ball back. The Raiders recovered what even Stevie Wonder knew was a fumble, but Patriots coach Bill (independent video producer) Belichick challenged the call.
The officials otherwise known as the “regular refs” without irrefutable evidence to dispute the decision on the field reversed the call, stating that Brady was trying to throw the ball as he was being hit.
The replay clearly showed that Brady was instead trying to cradle the ball back into his chest, which was not a pass, but a clear fumble. This fumbling and bumbling changed the course of the NFL and became known as the “Tuck Rule,” and it helped to create to the so-called Patriots ‘Die-nasty’. These were not the part time lockout defying refs from 2012. These bumblers were the full time, part time officials.” The voice is beginning to get rabid now. “Brey, Brey do you remember the Colts and the 49ers game at Candlestick Park in back in October 1998?” I answer timidly, “no.” “Well I do,” the voice says rather arrogantly. The Colts were smacking around the “Niners” beating them down by the score of 21-0 in the second quarter, but a few “shady” calls by referee Walt Coleman’s cronies allowed the 49ers to come from behind and win 34-31. Two particular calls that were overtly shaky were two bogus holding calls that cancelled out two end zone interceptions by Indianapolis.” “Okay, okay, enough already,” I am now pleading with the voice. “I get the point.” But the voice had to have its final say. “Peanut, I saved the best for last.” I don’t answer; the voice is not listening to me anyway. “Remember the “Immaculate Reception? The game that punched the ticket of Steelers running back Franco Harris into the Hall-of-Fame? At least with the Immaculate Reception call in 1972, Franco caught the ball. Unlike the recent Packers, Seahawks “scrum” in end zone that was the conclusion to their game; there was no simultaneous possession for the refs to contend with. You can argue until the cows come home whether it was a legal catch and whether it ricocheted off of a Steeler.” The voice is getting tired now I can sense it, thank God. “Nutt, my point is, the referees and officials whether they are regular, irregular or perpendicular to the horizontal will be flawed. Any profession that depends on the human eyes or ears is prone to make mistakes. By the way, last Sunday near the end of the Packers/Saints game at Lambeau the regular refs blew an apparent Saints fumble calling Saints running back Darren Sproles down by contact; welcome back fellas. Until the games are manned by robots we are going to have to just roll with the punches. Hey Peanut; you can take your hands out of your ears now”
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741. Bruce can also be heard on the ‘Odd Couple Sports Show’ where he is the AFC North and NFL analyst. The show is hosted by Adam Ragle streaming live on the WCWA Fox Sports Toledo 1230AM. Bruce is featured on Tuesdays from 10-11am during the NFL season.)