The NFL once was the ultimate gridiron struggle, but in recent years it’s become more of a contest to see who can get the zebras to give them the biggest advantage. We’ve all seen the offense line-up on 4th-and-short with no intention of snapping the football; rather it’s all about which yardbarker can draw the opposition offsides. We’ve all seen the receiver who rather than making a play for the ball decides to mug for the cameras and the referees, begging for a penalty. The sad, but simple fact is that the NFL is now all about penalties, and pretty much everything about penalties is bullshit.
Watching penalties in the NFL is a lot like getting a speeding ticket when you’re in the middle of having a great day. You have legitimate reasons for enjoying yourself, but some assbag with a badge has to yank you to the side of the road because you’re going 33 in a 30 mph zone. It’s not you were blatantly breaking the law; you didn’t blow through a school cross-walk at 85 mph and turn some kid into a hood ornament. You were just jamming out to Rush’s “2112” and trying to mind your own goddamned business; but you ran into Officer RadarGun who has a quota to meet and his wife refused to give him blowjob before he left the house that morning, so he’s going to ass-rape you instead.
In the NFL, Officer RadarGun is personified by the likes of zebras such as Ed Hochuli, Gene Steratore, and that black guy whose name we can’t remember. The difference here is that in the case of the NFL, the bullshit nature of the enforcement of the rules isn’t the fault of nit-picky enforcers incentivized by straight-up quotas. Think about how the NFL would look like if it referees were expected to call at least 6 holding holding penalties per game.
As ridiculous as that sounds, the NFL is really all about finding ways for the refs to employ some form of game-stoppage strategy. If you doubt that, stop to consider all the ways a referee can stop a football game colder Hilary Clinton taking a cryogenic sitz bath. But rather than dwell on that, we are here to look at penalties and the three reasons why most of the calls made in the NFL today are complete bullshit; the reason behind the calls, and the shit that comes from the people against whom the calls go.
I. Bullshit penalties come from bullshit reasons
Bullshit Reason #1) This is all about player safety
No, this is about protecting high-priced players like quarterbacks, who now might as well be called Long-Term investment backs. There are Wall Street hedge funds that wish they could be worth $18 million over 7 years. But the real reason why “player safety” is a pantload is that if the NFL really gave a shit about all players, they wouldn’t keep screwing the union on long-term healthcare. The NFL cares about the safety of their current players about as much as they care about the safety of their retired players, which is about as much the corporate executives at Phillip Morris care about their customer’s long term lung health.
The reason “player safety” is Bullshit Reason#1 ought to speak volumes about how people who know this subject well are so easy to dismiss it, namely because it is 100%, pure, uncut garbage and it is the most shopworn deflection the NFL uses. If you don’t want to believe that, ask former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley. If you don’t know where to find Mr. Turley, well…once again we’ve done the heavy lifting for you.
Bullshit Reason #2) Even the officials don’t know the rules
Honestly, there are far too many examples of this, but the best one occurred at the end of the Patriots-Panthers game in Week 11. This is why Ed Hochuli is a lawyer in the off-season, and trots out Mike Perrieira to be the Judge Wapner of Football because somebody needs to untangle the convolution of what used to be pretty straight-forward shit. If you’ve never seen Mike Perrieira’s bloviations, they usually start with “the rule book states that…,” after which he launches into something that sound like he’s quoting the exact citation of a legal document or a goddamn Bible verse. Whichever way they go, they end with Troy Aikman looking even more confused because he gave himself another concussion while tying his shoes, and then guys like us write more shit like this.
Here’s the clincher: If the officials DID know the rules, then why do these game-stopping conferences even exists in the first place? The fact they don’t have any real guiding principles for making these decisions is precisely why these discussions all sound like they are trying to talk their knocked-up 19-year old daughter into (or out of) having an abortion? In other words, if the refs knew the the rules as well as they claim, then we wouldn’t have all the “Is it too late to go to CVS for the ‘morning after pill?'” conversations, all of which ignore the fact that the daughter doing 18 Jell-o shots and shacking up with a guy who has tattoos on his face was as bad of a decision as throwing the initial penalty flag.
Bullshit Reason #3) Officials throw flags when they don’t know what happened, then hope the replay guy can save their asses
Again, we have go back to the fact that the Judge Wapner of football even has to exist. Try to follow this…to explain a call on the field, we bring in a guy on a satellite link from thousands of miles away, who is watching the same video that we are all watching, only to somehow never disagree with whatever call the refs make. But to be fair, there’s a cottage industry around busting the officals’ stones; hence why shit like the very blog you are reading even exists. But to be even more fair, that cottage industry doesn’t exist because of NFL Wapner or Ed Hochuli; they aren’t the ones purchasing ringtones that shout “In-Comp-lete.” You are the ones doing that.
Before you pick your crayon to respond to that with a truly fucked-up sense of righteous indignation, ask yourself how many times you’ve lived through the following scenario:
You’re in a sports bar doing your best impression of a Komodo Dragon swallowing a goat by ramming many appetizers and pitchers of beers down your gullet as your debit card will allow and thought to yourself “Fuck, life is good…I’m so glad I’m a fat, American bastard that gets to watch football for another six hours.” Your gastronomic masturbatory festival is suddenly brought to a halt by a whistle. Chicken wings still protruding from your face, you look around and see the entire room has been frozen in its tracks like Pompeii. The only thing moving is a guy in a striped shirt on the television, who after three minutes with his head under a hood emerges to say “There is no foul on the play. Please reset the game clock to 8:37.” You scratch your head, pull the wings out of your mouth, and wonder what the fuck just happened.
You know that has happened to every single one of us. We know that because a) we all love football b) we all love buffalo wings and c) every one of us has done the “Komodo Dragon” thing in a sports bar.
The proof is in the NFL’s television ratings, the number of chicken wings sold in this country, and the fact that every restaurant in the U.S. is required to have one of those “Heimlich Maneuver” posters in the employee break room. The fact that a penalty can fuck up “Komodo” time illustrates what a serious buzzkill they are. Again, we’ve all been there; the call/non-call enrages the guy federally-mandated to be in every sports bar, and next thing you know, the wild gesticulations of some dickweed who looks like somebody put a size 78 Denver Broncos jersey over a Volkswagen with facial hair nets you an earful of Captain Morgan at one-thirty in the afternoon.
Granted, it’s not as bad as being buried alive in a volcanic eruption, but then again, if Ed Hochuli would have been at Pompeii, he would have been standing on the side of the mountain saying shit “there was no conclusive video evidence of an eruption” all while the volcano shot a red-hot, 400-pound boulder up your pee-hole.
II. Bullshit reasons lead to the creation of bullshit rules
1) Tackling quarterbacks is now illegal
Spotted Owls wish they could get the level of protection NFL quarterbacks get now. Jim McMahon gets himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated and tells the “Cousin Eddie” story from “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” and while Kommissar Goodell is sweating lawsuits, the last thing he needs is yet another story about an ex-footballer who pisses his pants and forgets who he is for a half-hour every time he gets near a microwave. That’s why we now have snipers in the light-towers of every NFL stadium waiting to put a .308 slug into the brain-stem of anybody who even breathes on a quarterback.
The perfect example is the hit by the San Francisco 49ers Ahmad Brooks on Drew Brees hit in Week 11. This play set really bad precedent, because not only does it now mean nearly any contact with a quarterback in the pocket is subject to the whims of the zebras, but it also means that offensive linemen can now score a fifteen-yarder by shoving a defender straight into the quarterback. So, if we are understanding this, we are protecting quarterback by allowing their own guys to hurl bodies at them??? Somebody get NFL Wapner on the phone.
2) When is a catch not a catch?
You’d think that amongst everything in the NFL, this would be pretty cut and dried. If you think that, you’d be completely fucking wrong. Now, thanks to the Calvin Johnson Non-Catch in 2010, we all know the phrase “in the process of completing the catch,” which is ironic because thanks to that phrase, nobody has the first fucking clue what a catch really is.
The NFL has taken what was completely fucking obvious and so obfuscated it that now not even lawyers can’t untangle it. The guy either has the ball or he doesn’t, right? Not anymore…Did he get both feet down in bounds? Did he have control of the ball? Did he make a “football move?” Were his parents legally married? Was he born in Missouri? Has he even been a scientologist? Maybe we need to go to the replay booth for review…somebody wake up NFL Wapner.
Think about how crazy that is for a second. Half of all plays run in the NFL are passing plays, and we can’t seem to define what constitutes a catch. To find logic like that, you need to watch C-SPAN and watch Congress in session, especially when you get to watch some Congressman from Alabama giving a speech to the the janitorial staff.
3) Block in the back/Block below the waist
This now seems to happen on every kick and punt return. Keep in mind that the special teams units are comprised of the most athletic guys on the football field; you’ll notice you don’t see a lot of 350-pound lunch wagons chasing down punts. Why does that matter? Because those guys have been changing their direction at full speed for most of their careers. That’s why they’re on special teams in the first place. So who’s to say that any of the players on the kicking team can’t change direction during a block?
The answer to that is easy if you’ve been paying attention…the officials.
4) Pass Interference
In order to avoid this article turning into something incredibly long and incomprehensible (like the NFL rule book), let’s just say that what is and isn’t pass interference is slowly turning into what happens in the mind of a hipster staring at a painting.
Determining what is and isn’t pass interference is beyond confusing. It’s become completely subjective, and every dickbreath out there has an opinion on it. There’s nothing funnier than listening to an NFL fan bemoan the amount of “flopping” in soccer, when NFL receivers are now judged on how well they can sell an interference call. These guys now will literally give up on the opportunity to make a catch in order to make a play to claim interference. If Meehan had five dollars for every time Dez Bryant looks at the ref for a flag during one calendar NFL year, there would be so many Asian hookers in his apartment it would look like he was trying to recreate the flesh pits of Bangkok in 900 square feet.
Here’s the problem. Football is not supposed to be an art… it’ is supposed to be a sport of rigid timing and precise rules, which is exactly why we we watch it. If we wanted to sit here and ponder questions such as “Yes, but is it art?” this site would be called “Indie Hipster Movement” and J-Dubs would be drinking chai tea in his ordering triple-XL Arcade Fire T-shirt until Mrs. J-Dub said “Fuck this, I’m outta here…”
The level of protection receivers get in the NFL is only slightly behind that of quarterback and ex-Mafia informants. Right now, if an NFL wide receiver overdrafts his checking account, the defense gets a five-yard penalty. You can thank all this “defenseless receiver” bullshit for this. This is another example of the NFL taking something that at one time had some legitmacy, and then going utterly off the deep end with it. We can understand having a problem with guys full-on launching themselves into another dudes face; we all remember that hit on Austin Collie a few years back in Philadelphia where it looked like he just got flat out murdered on the field. But the NFL went way too far with this; now receivers are playing “flag football,” and it a defender dares even to try to grab a flag, he is penalized, his house pets are killed, and he is dropped into a leper colony.
The biggest problem is that there is simply no such thing as a “defenseless receiver.” We’re not going to listen to an argument that a guy wearing so much armor they need to chisel it off so he can take a piss is “defenseless.” Not to mention, they all knew the job was dangerous when they took it.
5) The “Leverage” Rule
In Rugby, they can literally throw a guy in the air. If the rules of Rugby were used in America, every NFL team would have a midget who would be hurled at the ball on every attempted kick. However, in the NFL, simply pushing a teammate will get you a six-game suspension during which Kommissar Goodell will murder and eat your children. Then they will bill you for having the knife cleaned and sharpened, so they can do it to the next guy who’s basically just doing what he’s been trained to do since before he was able to use the toilet without Mom’s help.
III. Bullshit excuses used by fans whose teams ended up on the wrong end of a call
1) “The refs never call that”
Really? Never? Never is a pretty finite term…it means that previously this call or nothing even remotely like it ever happened before. That logic fails faster than a Soviet-built nuclear reactor; it’s actually far more like legal precedent. The reason why it’s illegal to have sex with a sheep at a busy intersection is because at some point, someone had sex with a sheep at a busy intersection. That means at some point, the refs HAVE called everything at one time or another. Some of these fans really are naïve enough to think we believe they watch every single game and document what is or isn’t called. They also think that just because a call isn’t made often doesn’t mean it isn’t the right call. Go back to the sheep analogy: If you are fucking a sheep at a busy intersection, do you think that when a cop drives by, he’s not going to arrest you because “they never bust for that anymore?”
2) “The refs are just out to screw (insert team here)”
Sure they are. The referees have a genuinely strong desire to make sure the Washington Redskins aren’t successful, because they have so much to gain from it. People that say this one need to read this stuff in print in the hopes that they might actually realize how ridiculous what they’re saying is. Right after that happens, we can all join hands and go visit the Fairy Princess together.
That’s not to say that the current Denver Broncos roster won’t get more calls than the Jacksonville Jaguars – that’s going to happen. But this idea that the NFL referees wake up every morning with the intent of making the Jags sell even fewer tickets than they currently do is total nonsense. The idea that ANYBODY would spend that much time thinking about Jacksonville period itself is complete horseshit. But the refs get paid either way, so it’s not like they have any vested interest in who gets what call. The whole “refs are out to screw (insert team here)” is a valueless argument, and it really ignores logic.
3) “We only got hosed on that call because we were on the road”
This is a bit of an off-shoot from the previous rule. It shares the same hard level of stupidity.
J-Dub has a hard rule about teams that lose on calls at the end of a game. If the only thing separating your team from victory is an official’s call, they clearly didn’t play well enough to win. Fans who try to use this excuse are the same assholes who complain about how they are affected by the fact that the visitor’s locker rooms are painted pink. It’s fucking football. You have to come to terms with the fact that when yout team is on the road, the pendulum is simply not going to swing in your direction just because you think it should.
Despite the fact he plays basketball, we blame LeBron James for this shit. Nobody cries more about calls despite the fact he gets more calls than Apple’s tech support number. But blaming him won’t change the reality that “home cooking” when it comes to officiating is a fact of life. Besides, the bottom line is winners see opportunities and losers make excuses – it’s as simple as that.
IV. The Biq Question
Now that sports have become all about huge amounts of money, and the fact that the call of an official can mean the gain or loss of torrential sums of cash, how far away are we from a team owner suing a league over a bad call? In a country where you can sue somebody for nabbing the last clear baggie in the produce section the day before a snowstorm, we are probably just a kick return call away from perennial whiners dialing up Gloria Allred and trying on vagina suits.
Like we’ve said, the NFL being a multi-billion-dollar industry is more than enough reason for us to pose this question. Make no mistake about it, the money at stake combined with out litigious society means an owner suing the league over a blown call is about as likely to happen as the sun continuing to rise in the east. Whether the suit will get filed eventually is an “when” question” rather than an “if.” Obviously, the the reason why this is so possible is because there will be a team wanting to prove how much money they lost because of an official.
Take a look at what happened in the Chiefs – Chargers game at the end of last season. The non-call on the Chargers’ illegal formation on the missed Kansas City field goal on which they won the game effectively screwed the Steelers out of the playoffs. So, because seven official missed an pretty obvious call, the Steelers got fucked out of the playoffs, and subsequently lost some money simply because the referees didn’t do their job. Stevie Wonder could have spotted the error at the end of that game, and because of what transpired, Pittsburgh lost out on a trip to the post-season.
Now, whether you want to admit it or not, we had lawsuits filed in this country over far less than that.
If the whole point of sports is to be fair, and that’s the message that we are supposedly sending to our children after all those little-league sports after which we take them to a place that serves shitty pizza and fountain soda, then there should be a real effort to ensure fairness on the field.
Here’s the real problem: We essentially have turned our back on the whole “fair play” thing. It starts in those little leagues, where there’s no longer a need for fair play because in the interest of turning all our kids into complete pussies, we don’t even bother with winning and losing anymore. In the major sports leagues, the idea of winning has been supplanted by the idea of profitability. Despite the fact they are in baseball, the Chicago Cubs are the perfect example of profit in the face of not winning.
So…have we just given up?
Maybe that’s the question we should be asking ourselves when we see these bad calls. Pro sports has the money, there’s all kinds of applicable technology out there, so what’s the problem? You can’t tell us with the umpteen million cameras that NFL Films drags to Oakland Raiders games when they’ve been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for two months that we can’t start putting some of those Viewmasters to good use. NFL Films can also put together a 30-minute yearbook for every team in the league that has a positive spin on it regardless of how shitty the team actually was. In other words, the cameras, computers, and crews are already in place. So if we have it, why aren’t we using it to right the obvious wrongs?
Two words: “Judgement Call.” This is the football equivalent of “pilot error” in an airline crash investigation. If you stop and think about it, both of them are inherently stupid; of course it was an “error, no pilot intends to slam into a cornfield at 600 mph. In a similar vein, “judgement call” just means “yeah, we know the officials fucked up, but they have a union and we have to live with it.”
Not to mention, to apply those resources will still cost money. Just like the NFL didn’t give a shit about concussions until they got hauled into court, it may take somebody suing over a blown call to force Kommissar Goodell into fixing teh archaic way the NFL officiates its games. Because if he doesn’t, someday the integrity of the NFL could end up in question, and tha’t not bullshit.
Hell, right now J-Dub and Meehan are considering filing a lawsuit because that blown call in the Chargers; game meant we had to see Philip Rivers’ chipmunk-looking ass for two more weeks.