Brutal instant replay shows how insufferable sports have become

By now, I suspect, Dean Blandino is wondering why the heck Fox hired him. Perhaps the Hofstra grad would be better off running coffee and crullers during football telecasts.

Blandino is among those former NFL officials — or, in his case, an ex-officiating official — hired to provide their sage takes during replay-review stoppages. The problem is, there’s no such thing as a sage take.

What was installed as a matter of knee-jerking, as opposed to applicable foresight, was supposed to remove human error in order to “get it right.” But what it has overwhelmingly done, beyond halting play to conduct totally unintended video inspections and add commercials, is to emphasize the human condition.

Last weekend, Blandino was called in to provide his expertise during the Texas-Oklahoma State game. A completed sideline pass to OSU’s Dillon Stoner was challenged.

Blandino looked at the recorded evidence then determined it was a clean catch, one that would not — could not — be overturned.

Boing! The catch was overturned, ruled incomplete. “Getting it right” became a matter of second opinion, a maybe.

The next day, Blandino was summoned to rule on a pass play in the Packers-Vikings game. What Blandino detailed to be clear pass interference was called. But the flag was picked up and ruled, on second on-field thought, to have been a clean play.

Blandino said that the call should be reinstated, that the defender had committed flagrant interference.

Boing! The play was ruled incomplete, no penalty.

And Blandino, who appeared to be correct on both calls, was left to turn to the This Space For Doodling pages in his NCAA and NFL rules books. If a fellow with his pedigree gets them wrong …

The “egregiously incorrect calls” that replay reviews were designed to treat are, naturally, seldom. Instead, the games grind to sudden stops to treat the totally unintended. And now because football is stuck in denial, we’re stuck with it.

Does it matter that the NFL risked nothing — not the loss of even one, often-freezing customer or viewer — if there had been no replay rules? No, but this is how it is, how it will continue.

During the World Series, replays to study a freeze-framed, enlarged-view challenge of a bang-bang play at first — overwhelmingly the most frequent but unintended use of MLB replay — led Fox’s John Smoltz to remark that he’s “batting about .380” in agreeing with the final ruling.

MLB, also bereft of foresight, never considered that one man’s inconclusive evidence will be another’s no-doubt-about-it.

The final two minutes of tight college basketball games are now stretched to 20 drowsy minutes to examine courtside video monitors as per replay rules. What fans once reasonably accepted as routine calls, no matter how close, have been lost to the needless and action-killing.

And so The Charge Of The Light-Headed Brigade gallops on. That it adds to what’s making sports increasingly insufferable as a TV product becomes just another, er, ah, thing.

College players put themselves in bad spots

How to “pack” for college:

Those who have watched Chiefs games have heard announcers rave about RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire — a tough, hole-finding 5-foot-8 rookie from LSU.

But he was involved in a fatal shooting of Kobe Johnson in Baton Rouge, La.

Just before Christmas 2018, Edwards-Helaire and LSU teammate Jared Small made a date to do some holiday shopping at Johnson’s home to purchase what was described as “an electronic device.”

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Johnson reportedly opened fire in an attempt to rob the two. The teammates, also packing at least one handgun, immediately returned fire, killing Johnson. Both were released in time to play in the Fiesta Bowl, the fatal shooting ruled justifiable.

LSU defeated sudden powerhouse UCF — Central Florida — in that Fiesta Bowl.

Two Thursdays ago, according to Florida media, UCF defensive back Antwan Collier was arrested by campus police at 2:30 a.m. for carrying a concealed firearm, a live round in the chamber, and for driving with a suspended license after he was pulled over for careless driving in what was reported as an on-campus drag race that blew through a red light.

Two weapons, “a loaded AR-15 semiautomatic rifle with a magazine inserted” and “a Glock pistol with an extended magazine” were seized. Three others, believed to be teammates, were in the car.

Soon other UCF players appeared, and began to curse the officers. This was at 2:30 a.m. Four players soon were dismissed from the team.

YES stalwarts get the boot

YES Network has inexplicably jettisoned three of its best. Superb nuts-and-bolts Nets analyst Jim Spanarkel, 27 years affiliated with the team’s telecasts, plus Yankees producer Bill Boland and director John Moore, the latter two versatile, highly regarded forever YES vets — all three for no known good reasons.

Spanarkel, in measured, low-keyed observations, saw and spoke the floor as well as anyone in the business, while Boland and Moore’s Yanks telecasts were favored for their alert, live work; fast, telling replays; and on-the-fly video flashbacks.

And though the vision of YES announcers was often selective, the Boland-Moore crew wasn’t afraid to shoot, record and show Gary Sanchez loafing after passed balls and Robinson Cano down-shifting from jog to slower. Spanarkel, who never hollered, always left us wiser.

Special they were, special they leave. Mind-blowing.

JJ ‘picks’ up Mike’s bad habit

In John “JJ” Jastremski, WFAN may have found a worthy replacement for the Sphinx of the Jinx, Mike Francesa. Jastremski’s stats-soaked local lock last week was the Buccaneers, giving 12.5 to the Giants. The Bucs won by two. Unlike Francesa, however, he admits to being wrong.

UConn — annually employing basketball coaches who are the highest-paid state employees — can’t allow fans to attend this season’s games due to COVID-19. So it’s soliciting donations from men’s and women’s basketball patrons, requesting the school keep up to 50 percent of their fees “to assist in supporting our student-athletes.”

The Bills (6-2) lead the NFL in third-down conversion rates at 52 percent. Another wildly misleading stat. The Bills’ best, by far, third-down game — 13-of-17 — was compiled in a 42-16 loss to the Titans.

Under new ownership, the Mets must establish a radio network that reaches beyond WCBS 880 AM. Upstate baseball fans for years have complained that, unlike the Yankees’ multiple-stations reach, the Mets are out of touch.

Question of the Week is from reader Steve Mintz: “If the key is to run downhill, shouldn’t the winner of the coin toss opt for ‘downhill’ in the first or second half?”

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