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Not even rule analysts can make sense of NFL’s mindless review system

What happened? Why does football no longer resemble football? Who did this to it? Why? 

We’ve all been told, “It’s straight ahead. You can’t miss it.” Then missed it. Thus it seems that the larger the game, the greater the farce, the residue of the fanciful modern wish to make the human condition flawless. 

The weekend’s AFC and NFC championships were an institutionalized mess. Seven hours of sustained, foresight-starved lunacies that have proliferated during the reign of Roger Goodell, now in the social activism business as long as you cut the NFL in on your gambling losses. 

The ex-NFL refs now employed by NFL networks and summoned to be heard with greater frequency — Gene Steratore, Dean Blandino, Terry McAulay, Mike Pereira, et al. — need to be completely honest with viewers during replay stoppages: 

Games have become drowned in replay legislation, adjudication and unwanted second guesswork of what once didn’t much bother football fans. 

We’ve lost even the mere scent of what, why and when, thus the same for the rush to throw challenge flags as well as the rush to run the next play — any play — before replay reviews can or can’t be applied in search of definitive maybe, depending on the appellate judges. 

Mike Pereira
Getty Images

Such candor from these ex-refs would sound like exit interviews: 

“Leave us out of this. We’ve no more idea what’s going on here — or how it’ll be settled — than you. Replay rules are overwhelmingly used in defiance of their intent to reverse only rotten calls. It has become an exercise in the microscopic examination of what we once could all expect and accept as a matter of football. 

“But the NFL, in its attempt to make test tube science out of 22 humans moving at once in many different directions, has chosen to devour NFL games from the inside out. So go flip your own coin.” 

Bengals-Chiefs was additionally determined by multimillion-dollar players with no sense of circumstances and are coached by multimillion-dollar coaches who from Day 1 fail to impress on their troops common sense versus coveting fleeting, worthless TV attention by the backwards-pointed promotion of televised football as what it can’t be: 

A sport played by the uncivilized. Thus another game determined by the unrestrained ignorance of the most obvious circumstances. 

And so, for a second time since 2016 — that wild-card game against the Steelers won with a late field goal after career miscreants Pacman Jones and Vontaze Burfict earned successive 15-yarders for gross misconduct — the Bengals lost a postseason game to misbehavior, this time an inexcusable late hit by Joseph Ossai that preceded a game-ending 45-yard field goal. 

Dean Blandino
Getty Images

When will they learn? As it grows worse, perhaps never. What rarely before determined NFL games now occur on a weekly basis, including Sunday’s AFC Championship

Sunday’s first game ended with a Niners-Eagles blowout brawl in Goodell’s “Choose Love” “Bet The Parlays” League. Eagles guard Josh Sills wasn’t indicted for rape and kidnapping until after the game. Sills has denied the claims. 

That game, early, was awash in replay rules failures and a successful attempt by Philly to restart the game before the rule likely would have wiped out a long complete pass that led to a TD. But you know what they say about replay rules: “It’s all about getting it right!” 

One totally confusing play featured the ball hitting an overhead TV wire, thus something that was to provide replay-rule angles resulted in official what-the-heck shrugs — following TV commercials. 

The commentaries during the telecasts were also testaments to backwards in progress. 

Simply put, Fox’s Greg Olsen doesn’t shut up! He’s insufferable! Why is he allowed to persist? Are there execs at Fox who believe we enjoy him? Do they not realize that he places Fox’s inability to know bad from much worse a weekly point of emphasis? 

To hear the self-evident obvious spoken twice during the NFC Championship game — running for a first down next became “He got a first-down with his legs” — was not insight. Yet, Olsen’s bosses concluded, “Gee, he’s good; can’t wait to hear him during the Super Bowl”? 

Greg Olsen
Getty Images

When it came time to be a real deal analyst — Christian McCaffrey’s early TD run was aided by Eagle DB Marcus Epps no-arms attempt to “tackle” by launching himself at McCaffrey’s legs, allowing McCaffrey to jump over him — Olsen avoided the opportunity to make a good point. 

On CBS, Tony Romo’s intermittent candor was replaced by his apparent understanding that for $18 million per he’s expected to speak after every play. The game was an administrative mess — odd calls, missed calls, a taunting call on KC for what appeared to be nothing much. At least tell us, firmly and clearly, that he, too, was lost to explain. 

There is no more credible NFL expert than those — even one — who can tell an audience, “I don’t know what the heck’s going on here, either.” 

And on an NFL conference championship Sunday that was filled with institutionalized inanity all dressed up and posed as football, we needed both the company and the comfort.

ESPN spoils Aussie Open

Even if it weren’t a national, multiple networks all-sports enterprise, the mindlessness of ESPN remains staggering. 

With Australian time more than half a day ahead of ours, the women’s final was placed on delayed broadcast mid-Saturday morning, exclusively on ESPN, when it would be watched for the first time by thousands of American tennis fans who didn’t know the result because they avoided it. 

Incredible ⁦@espn⁩… Watching the Australian Open this morning (instead of getting up at 2:30 am to watch) and the ESPN ticker shows the score? Are you kidding. Commentators are good but this has been the worst coverage of a sport ever. ESPN ruining tennis.

— JM (@jm11or3) January 28, 2023

The match was tight, Aryna Sabalenka over Elena Rybakina, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. 

But, ESPN, which fired a man because it couldn’t distinguish guerilla tennis tactics from a gorilla, during the third set scrolled the result, wrecking its own production and creating thousands of boiling angry viewers by its staggering but common neglect. 

U.S. youth sports in an ugly place

Robert Horry, a 16-year NBA vet, now 52 and a college man — Alabama — last week was ejected by police escort from his son’s high school basketball game in Los Angeles for persistently harassing the refs and making an unwelcome spectacle of himself. 

This in the throes of a national epidemic leading to the paucity of kids’ game refs and officials as so many have chosen to no longer allow spectators, players and especially parents to verbally abuse them and even physically assault them. 

Last week, a South Carolina high school doubleheader, Lewisville vs. Great Falls, boys and girls, ended with both games suspended. The girls’ game was stopped due to a fight among players, the boys’ game ended, and the gym cleared, because of a fight in the stands. 

Either his Fox bosses don’t listen or don’t care, but Colin Cowherd’s credibility as a $6 million per sports talker isn’t worth a dime. 

As per @BackAftaThis, the reliable chronicler of on-air sports fakes originally specializing in Mike Francesa, on Jan. 24 Cowherd authoritatively declared Aaron Rodgers “a good “fit “ for the Jets. On Jan 27 he as firmly declared Aaron Rogers “a bad fit [for the Jets].”