SI Vault
Edited by Andrew Crichton
November 18, 1974
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November 18, 1974


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Good grief! That bonehead play that made a cartoon caricature of Washington & Lee Defensive Back Charley Brown (SCORECARD, Oct. 21) wasn't dumb after all. Movies showed that Brown made a touchback and not a safety. The goof was strictly the officials'.

This comes as no surprise. Bad calls happen all the time in football. The wonder is that, with the bewildering array of rules they must enforce and 22 men dashing all over the large field, referees don't blow more of them. Ohio State's Woody Hayes, who even before this weekend (page 28) held strong views on the subject, agrees and says the time has come to help out officials with instant-replay television. He puts the argument tactfully: "Officials don't like to make a bad call and they don't like to be criticized for making a good call. There are angles and intervening objects that keep officials from seeing what they think they saw."

It is no exaggeration to say that millions of fans also agree, but should they? After hearing out Art McNally, superviser of the NFL's officials, we doubt it. What on the surface seems a practical solution does not hold up under closer examination. For instance, McNally asks, "How would the fans in Minnesota, on a cold day late in the season, enjoy sitting there all that extra time while the officials studied replays somewhere off on the sideline?

"Which plays—if not all the plays—are subject to review? Scoring plays? It may not be the touchdown run from four yards out that upsets the team scored on but the pass interference call at the four-yard line that set up the touchdown.

"Who should be allowed to bring up complaints? A coach? A team captain? A defensive left end who was held on the play? And who changes the call if the replays indicate the play had been called incorrectly?"

McNally thinks it would take 12 cameras to give proper coverage. The networks use four to six on telecasts, he says, and many times only one gets the play. And the angle on that one can be misleading; often enough, nobody would have discovered the fact until Tuesday when a spectator appeared with a picture he took that showed the officials never should have changed their call.

Better the Charley Browns of this world suffer occasionally the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than the game get into the hassles McNally envisions.

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