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January 25, 2002

by Bill Hogan



It would be great if life were more like a football game. At the end of each day, you come home, roll the video tape of daily events in slow motion a couple of hundred times, then go back and fix all the things you did wrong.

Redefine your existence on a nightly basis through the marvels of instant replay.


Erase that 30-second, expletive-laced tirade you had in your boss's office (two weeks before the annual bonus review).

Stay in your own lane, and avoid cutting off that old lady on your way home from work.

Leave for the office again, and this time remember to kiss your wife good-bye.

Move those boxes away from the doggie-door so Fido can do his business in the back yard instead of in front of the refrigerator.

Every mistake can be corrected, every wrong righted, every daily event can be meticulously scrutinized and rectified if necessary - upon further review (and with a little help from life's rulebook).

The Oakland Raiders were seventy-three seconds away from certain victory in Saturday's playoff game with the New England Patriots after recovering a fumble by Pat's quarterback Tom Brady.

The play was reviewed and reversed. It wasn't a fumble after all. It was an incomplete pass.

I'm no fan of either team, and watching as an objective observer it looked like a fumble to me. After seeing the replay, and listening to all the post-game explanations, it still looked like a fumble to me. But what do I know.

After all, isn't it more prudent to let an experienced referee meticulously scrutinize a single play - and ostensibly 'get it right' - than let the natural course of live events dictate the outcome of the game?

I mean isn't 'getting it right' the ultimate goal at any sporting event?

Remember, it's not whether you win or lose, and it's not how you play the game, it's how the game is perceived through a nine-inch monitor, in slow motion, by the guy that 'got it wrong' in the first place that really matters.

I only wish they could have developed this mentality (and the corresponding technology) sooner.

Think about all the memorable games in the history of the NFL that were marred by bad officiating.

On December 23, 1972, a rookie running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers named Franco Harris caught a deflected ball at his shoestrings and scored a last second, game winning touchdown in a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. The play is well known as "The Immaculate Reception".

But who deflected the ball to Harris?

(Note: in 1972, there was a league rule that a pass deflected by a member of the offense could not be caught by another member of the offense).

Let's go to the video tape, watch the play in slow motion from sixteen different angles for seven of eight minutes, and 'get it right'.

The pass was intended for Pittsburgh's Frenchy Fuqua. It's never been accurately determined if Fuqua, or Oakland saftey Jack Tatum actually tipped the pass. If Tatum tipped the ball, it's a Pittsburgh touchdown. But, if Fuqua tipped the ball to Harris, by rule, it's an incomplete pass.

A classic instant replay situation. It should have been the referee in the replay booth that decided the outcome of this famous game, and not the players on the field!

Had it been determined, upon further review, that the ball deflected off Fuqua and not Tatum, Oakland would have won the game and earned the right to face Miami in the AFC Championship.

Of course, if the call on the field had been reversed, the play would have been forever known as "The Immaculate Correction".

Isn't that what it's really all about - correcting our mistakes and 'getting it right'?

What kind of message would we be sending to the next generation if we allowed human error to contribute to the outcome of a football game?

When I was a boy, my friends and I played a lot of football. There were no referees, no cameras and no instant replay - just a lot of arguments. Disputes were resolved in one of two ways:

A fight would ensue - usually involving one or more of the Fitzpatick brothers.

Or, more often than not, we'd do the next best thing to instant replay - "DO OVER!"

Upon further review, the latter was always a lot more fun and it kept the game going 'till dinnertime.


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