William O. Johnson says it all about horrendous officiating in the NFL (It's Open Season on the Zebras, Oct. 9). If the refs had the ability to admit it when they are wrong it would be a major breakthrough. However, because they don't, the instant replay seems to be the way to go. If there is a questionable call by an official, the coach can ask for the replay. If the replay doesn't show definite evidence of a bad call, then let the original call stand.
Also, you mentioned that Tommy Bell wanted to get the rule changed about intentional grounding of a forward pass. You mean it hasn't been changed? I'm sick of seeing renowned quarterbacks like Fran Tarkenton consistently throw the ball away to protect themselves from a loss of yardage.
Chicken Little went around screaming, "The sky is falling," but did nothing about it. William O. Johnson reported on zebra flu, but couldn't find a cure. We have the technology to fly through space and tap-dance on the moon, but Johnson says TV instant replay won't solve the officiating problem.
Instant replay may have its limitations, but still it's a lot better than the instant confusion that players and fans have had far too much of lately.
KRIS A. UPTON
Art McNally, supervisor of NFL officials, said he was proud of the years of experience of his 100 officials, who "average 48 years of age." He nailed the biggest problem right there. At 48 the official is about 20 years older than the players. What about an absolute age limit of 45 to 50? Above 50 our zebras may be hampered by age and short wind.
I cannot understand why McNally doesn't permit discussion by officials of the negative habits of some players. Regular offenders encourage other players to be lax about the rules. Intentionally illegal play degrades the game.
New York City
William O. Johnson refers to the 1977 AFC championship game between Denver and Oakland and the Rob Lytle fumble near the Oakland goal line. Granted, Lytle did fumble and the call was wrong. But what Johnson and almost every other writer who uses that game as an example fails to mention is the blown call on Jack Dolbin's touchdown catch. Take away Denver's touchdown after the Lytle "non-fumble" but give the Broncos at least six points on Dolbin's circus catch, which was mistakenly ruled a trap, and the eventual score probably would have been the same.
For every publicized bad call by an official there is usually another, unpublicized one to even things out.
La Grande, Ore.
The article does nothing to solve the problems, which are fundamental and can be resolved only by people with a consummate knowledge of the rules and of officiating. Alas, such individuals are in short supply. At all levels of play too many people who are utterly lacking in qualifications influence the caliber of officiating. Even worse, the subject is being taught by instructors who seem to possess mediocre credentials. It is surprising that officiating is as good as it is, considering the many burdens under which it functions.
HOWARD A. WIRTZ
I must agree with Tommy Bell when he says, "If the game was infallible, it wouldn't be worth watching."
MARK J. REEFF