Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bad Officiating: Hell Hath No Fury Like Cleveland Fans Robbed...and Armed with Beer Bottles.

Cleveland is a city that has fallen on some very hard times.  The economy is wilting, the government's debt load is out of control, and people are leaving in droves from what used to be the 5th largest city in the United States.

It's a shame for many reasons, but one of the big ones is the city's sports fans.  Cleveland fans are as loyal and rabid as any that you could ask for (except for the Indians, who are terrible and previously tried to gouge fans on ticket prices).

But even the sports teams can add to the world's collective piling on of the struggling rust belt city.  The city's NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, looked to be championship contenders for years to come...until their beloved hometown super star, Lebron James, decided to take a giant dump on them during a 1 hour, nationally televised announcement he was leaving.

What should I do...about choking in the 4th quarter of playoff games?

Their football team, the Browns, left them for Baltimore in 1996, but came back in 1999.

Cleveland fans filled their stadium, affectionately known as the 'Dawg Pound,' and once again created one of the most intimidating environments for opposing teams to play in.

Some players are still missing after jumping into the stands.

In 2001, the Browns were in the hunt for the playoffs and attempting a dramatic 4th quarter comeback against division rival, the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Browns were faced with a 4th down and 1 situation; if they didn't get 1 yard or more for the first down, the Jaguars would get the ball back, run out the few remaining seconds on the clock, and Cleveland would effectively be eliminated from the playoffs.

Quarterback Tim Couch connected on a pass to Quincy Morgan, giving the Browns a 1st down and putting them 10 yards from the end zone with less than a minute left...except that it looked like Quincy Morgan may have actually dropped the pass.  Here is where instant replay becomes a factor.

For those that are unfamiliar with the NFL, instant replay can be a bit confusing, but here is a basic overview:

Instant replay can be used to reverse a ref's call (in most situations), but it cannot be used on every play.  Each coach coach gets 1 challenge per half, which they signal by throwing a red flag on the field.

This is what I think of your crappy call!

During the last 2 minutes of the 1st half and 2nd half, there are no challenges.  Any questionable calls that may be reversible are signaled from a replay assistant (that is watching the network broadcast of the game).  He then buzzes a pager on the head field referee, who then stops the game and reviews the play in question.

One hard and fast rule about this, however, is that you can only review the play that has just occurred.  You cannot go back 2 or more previous plays to try and over turn a call.

Remember that thing that happened that one time? 
 I've been thinking it over...

Strategy on the part of the team that may lose a replay challenge can come into play here.

If you think that you may lose a favorable call on instant replay, then your best bet is to hurry to the line of scrimmage and snap the ball; this makes the questionable call unreviewable since another play has already happened.

Now back to the game; the Browns had just gotten a game saving first down near the end zone on a questionable catch.  They needed to run another play quick for 2 reasons:

A.)  To spike the ball and stop the clock.
B.)  To keep the last play from getting reviewed.

Couch brought his team up to the line, spiked the ball, and the officials stopped the clock.  Cleveland was on the verge of an impressive comeback...until the officials decided that the rule book didn't matter.  They wanted to go back and review the catch from two plays ago.

Not very exciting reading, 
but it kept the refs well stocked with toilet paper.

Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis was livid and screaming for an explanation.

The announcers were baffled that this was being allowed to happen; this was something that the refs could not and should not be able to do, but they did it anyway.

As you can imagine, the fans were a bit ticked, as well.

Pictured:  Not a likely source of calm and reason

To make things worse, the catch was overruled, the Jaguars were awarded the ball, the Brown lost the game and their chance at the playoffs.

About this time, years of frustration and anger boiled over, and the fans went berserk.

The maelstrom of anger and projectiles became known in the annals of NFL history as 'Bottlegate'.

Bottles rained down from the stands. The officials were pelted mercilessly as they scurried into the locker room.  The game was called with 48 seconds remaining due to unsafe conditions on the field.

Now don't get me wrong; I don't condone throwing things from the stands onto the field.  For one thing, some of the people that tossed their bottles threw like complete pansies and actually hit their fellow fans in the lower deck.  Other people (both on the field and off) suffered injuries, though fortunately, none of them were serious.

However, the refs messed up here, big time, and the 'Dawg Pound' is one of the last places that any sane person should think that they can toss out the rule book and cost the home team a victory.

He wears this mask to hide his rage.

But if you remember from the last bad officiating post

Terry McAulay, the referee that made the decision to review the play, was ready to rise to that challenge.

He claimed that the replay booth buzzed him immediately after the catch by Morgan.  What Mr. McAulay forgot, however, was that that the same camera that he used to watch the replay was also watching him.

The video shows McAulay calling for the clock to stop because of the ball being spiked (with an incomplete pass signal), not trying to stop the game for a replay.  He is not even reaching for his pager.

Even Mike Pereira, the Vice President of NFL officiating, said in the above video:

"If you tried to replay the replay buzz, you wouldn't have the visual evidence to support it."

So either Terry McAuley is blatantly lying, he has the reaction time of a blind and deaf squirrel, or he is stretching the truth wide enough to make a shield for protecting his and the replay assistant's butt.

That shield could have really come in handy at this point

No discipline was ever handed down to McAulay, but NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue did take action.  He called McAulay after he and his crew fled the field and overruled his end the game early.

The commissioner told both teams and the officials that they had to go back out and finish the meaningless last 30 seconds of the game.  I suppose that in some small way, that was a punishment; but it was not the justice that Cleveland fans wanted or deserved.

The grounds crew wasn't too happy, either.