On Super Bowl weekend, the last thing Vegas gamblers want to hear about is fixing. But the rest of us should consider what ails the National Football League, and think about ways to set it right.
First, what cannot be fixed: the lack of action.
The Wall Street Journal recently broke down some NFL games and found that there are only about 11 minutes of actual game action. That’s compared to 67 minutes of “players standing around” and about an hour of ads -- most of which are loud and/or annoying, and many of which we paid for ourselves. We’re talking to you, Howie Long.
But fans already knew there were too many ads. That’s one reason it’s nicknamed the “No Fun League.” If you’re willing to record a game and watch it later, you can view it in less than an hour, without missing a snap. This isn’t going to change as long as advertisers are lining up to throw money at the networks carrying NFL games.
So what should be fixed? First, replay must go.
In years past, the NFL was occasionally victimized by incorrect calls. To cite just one high-profile example, officials ruled Mike Renfro was out of bounds in the 1980 AFC Championship game, when in fact he’d made a catch that should have tied the game. His Houston Oilers went on to lose.
The NFL eventually responded by allowing coaches to “appeal” two calls per game by tossing a red beanbag on to the field. Usually, by the time the coach throws his challenge flag, TV viewers have already enjoyed several looks at the controversial call. (The Journal report adds that 17 minutes of each NFL broadcast are devoted to replays.)
Some of the plays are clearly incorrect, but virtually all are judgment calls. Many remain touch-and-go, even with high-def cameras and slow motion/freeze capabilities. All too often, it’s simply impossible to judge a three-dimensional game based on a two-dimensional replay. That’s what officials are out on the field for.
Replay was introduced to, supposedly, prevent errors. But it doesn’t. It’s changed the game, since officials naturally hold off on making certain calls, knowing they’ll be reviewed by replay, anyway. But there are still errors.
To wit: “The league acknowledged Monday that referee Pete Morelli erred when he overturned on replay [Troy] Polamalu’s interception of a Peyton Manning pass Sunday in the playoff game between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis,” the AP reported four years ago.