The Harbinger Online

Costly Calls

American Football Conference Championship, Jan. 22, 2017. Steelers vs. Cheaters (Patriots, technically). A referee places the football 2 yards behind where Antonio Brown actually caught the ball, forcing a turnover with no downs left.

I gripped the awkward curve of my lucky cap, throwing it to the ground. Except it didn’t hit the ground. It slipped out of my hand and hit the brand new, $2,500 Samsung television 5 feet in front of me, the metal size adjuster hitting the plasma screen perfectly.

The result? A huge black spot in the middle.

I stared at that sweaty zebra as he measured if the ball was past the 1st down marker, and of course, he stuck with his guns and kept it where it shouldn’t have been. I sat watching the Steelers punt away the game, on a half-broken TV.

I’m a passionate football fan, to say the least, and sure, I lost some money that day. I probably could’ve handled the situation better. But by all accounts, bad calls and I have had a heated rivalry ever since.

The referees in the NFL must use the resources around them and know the material they’re officiating like the back of their hand.

High-tech cameras are scattered across every football field, yet it’s like they’re just for show. They offer high definition photos of what’s happening on the field, but these referees still (after seeing very clear videos) make the wrong calls. I can see it now, the ref smiling to himself as he flips me off and neglects the obvious holding call.

These mistakes made by the officials can’t stand anymore – they get in the way of what the games are all about.

It’s about a battle between two teams, displaying a worthy representation of the hard work that each team puts in. It’s about your team destroying your best friend’s, so you get to throw it in their face for the rest of the year. It’s about the insane endings, like a Steelers touchdown pass with less than 30 seconds left, beating the best team in the league, that DOESN’T get called back.

The NFL must return to a time where the officials know the rules to the extent that the viewers at home do. Although the NFL scouts their referees to make sure they’re doing an adequate job, penalties are still missed. On top of this, they are required to attend seminars semi-regularly and to know their material.

Yet…not enough. My proposal? Send them to referee school.

It can be on a big, beautiful campus, where swell mid-life-crisis ridden people of all shapes and sizes can learn the rules they’ve been pretending to know for the 98 years that the NFL has been around.

Or at least several seminars in the summer, weekly during football season, where licensed referees can expand their knowledge upon the subject. They could review real plays and discuss the possible outcomes or calls, and attend them regularly to ensure an even greater understanding than they already have.

This could potentially reduce the amount of missed calls in the NFL, and it would make me feel a little bit better to know that there’s even more work being done to make sure every call is sound. Most importantly, it may help begin to remedy my favorite team’s curse of bad or missed calls.

Ever since I could list the ABC’s with confidence, I’ve been a Steelers fan. I’ve stood by them through all the bad moments, like when they lost in the playoffs to the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow a few years ago, on an overtime 80 yard throw for a touchdown to win the game. I’ve definitely stood, and shouted by them through the endless barrage of awful calls that have plagued Steeler Nation my entire life.

We blame the coaching, the players, the fans – like the drunk Raiders fan at a game I witnessed throwing his collection of empty Budweiser’s at QB Ben Roethlisberger –  for our losses, when we should be questioning the most obvious culprit: the officiating.

From a Steelers touchdown that would’ve won the game against the Patriots (AGAIN) being called back, to those two fumbles that the Chiefs should have had against the Titans, the bad calls never end.

The officials’ actions directly affected the rest of the Steelers’ and Chiefs’ seasons, especially the Chiefs, as they were eliminated in the wake of the Titans game. And it definitely doesn’t stop there; they do the same to teams that are also hurt by bad officiating.

By the way, a fumble hadn’t been called back by reason of “maintaining forward progress” or “player whistled down by the refs before a tackle” the entire season. 5 months. 256 games. Twice during that Chiefs game, a fumble was called back for this exact reason.

Oh, and the referee who called them retired after the game. Was it because he felt bad about the calls he made? Probably not, but we can still be mad at him for making them.

I dream one day that we can live in a world where bad calls don’t get in the way of a good football game. They’ve become a part of every game, but they don’t have to. I believe our referees can get their act together. Just a couple seminars or some pre-game review time is all that I’m asking.

But, until this day comes, I’ve still got my hat, and I hopefully won’t have to use a bunch of my lawn mowing money to finance more of the family broken TV’s. So referees, this is to you, just check the books once or twice before you officiate your next game.

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Ben Henschel

Ben Henschel is a Sophomore at East and is the co-Online Sports Editor. He is involved with SHARE projects and tennis at East, and is an aspiring GABL Basketball player. He has his own lawn care business and spends lots of time with friends. Ben is in his first semester of Harbinger and is very excited to learn and improve his skills. Read Full »

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