Friday, November 29, 2013

Steelers-Ravens Game Almost Decided by Stupid Application of Rules

A late 4th quarter touchdown scored by the Pittsburgh Steelers was overturned last night. Why? Because a Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell's helmet popped off just before he carried the ball across the goal-line. The helmet came off due to a helmet-to-helmet hit initiated by a Ravens defender. There was no penalty called.

I understand the rule that play should stop once a helmet comes off. That's been a rule in college football for years. An official sees a helmet come off, for whatever reason, and the play is blown dead. It's a rule strictly for player safety. And it makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is the ability to review a play that's already ended, and decide when it would have theoretically ended had the refs blown a whistle the instant a helmet came off. How does this time-travelling hindsight whistle improve player safety? The play has already been run and finished. You can't go back in time and protect a vulnerable player AFTER the play is over. You can't go back and stop the play before the player became vulnerable.

I hate how influential rules can be when they're applied outside of their spirit and intention. Last night a player safety rule was applied in a way that did NOTHING to improve player safety, and did nothing to punish the person who jeopardized the player's safety in the first place (the Ravens defender). However it could have had a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

So no impact on player safety, possible impact on the game's outcome, and the rule is used. Makes no sense.

I'm so utterly, utterly sick and tired of NFL games turning because of the rulebook and the literal or inconsistent or vague application of those rules. What happened to analyzing games for player performances and coaching decisions? Now games are analyzed by quoting rules and consulting former officials. Rules are meant to govern games, not direct them.

The fact that a player safety rule was invoked where it had no impact on player safety does not make sense.

The fact that a guy gets clobbered as he's diving across the goal-line, so hard that his helmet pops off his head, and that's what allowed refs to effectively go back in time and blow a whistle to stop the play, does not make sense.

The fact that this type of play is reviewable does not make sense.

The fact that rules against things like helmet-to-helmet contact can't be enforced in review, but this rule can, does not make sense. That's something that actually could improve player safety.

The spirit of these rules means nothing to the NFL or to its officials. It's literal lawyering, it's asinine, it's confusing, it's lame. It makes NFL games aggravating not entertaining.

Or maybe the refs are trying to quietly get revenge on the NFL for last year's lockout. Hmmmmm. Conspiracy theory.