Claremore Daily Progress

Sports Columnists

September 25, 2012

LITKE: NFL deserves every bad call it gets

NEW YORK — Remember this a year or two from now, when a video of the final play of Monday night's Packers-Seahawks game turns up on a blooper reel: It wasn't all that funny watching it the first time around.

Two replacement officials, positioned perfectly on either side of the corner of the end zone, appeared to come up with two different calls.

After looking at each other, one waved both arms back and forth, either signaling a touchback or a stoppage of play. The other signaled touchdown.

If you tried to stage a photograph to symbolize the confusion that's dogged the NFL and its games since commissioner Roger Goodell let a lockout of the regular officials spill over into the regular season, you couldn't have done it any better.

The reaction was predictable, overwhelmingly negative, and swift. Anyone still have questions about the integrity of the game? Thought so.

Let's put it this way: If the NFL were a hamburger chain, Goodell would have been fired on the spot.

The league's foot-dragging in bargaining talks with the regular officials was based on the assumption the replacements would get better.

In the meantime, it threatened to fine any coach or player who suggested it was worse. After a string of screw-ups by the officials in Sunday's games, this one ripped the lid off.

Somehow, the mildest reaction of the night came from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

after the Seahawks' 14-12 win was in the books, he was asked whether he'd ever experienced a more bitter defeat.

"Uh, no,'' Rodgers replied and left it at that.

But why stop there? The replacement officials don't know the rules. They can't control the players or coaches. And both are playing them for suckers.

Just last week, the league sent around a warning against berating the officials. The coaches and players treated it like a dare.

Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan followed the officials into the tunnel in Washington after a loss, hurling curses. Steelers linebacker Larry Foote did the same to a different crew in Oakland. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick tried grabbing an official running by him when the game ended in Baltimore to get an explanation he's waiting for still.

Earlier in that same game, the hometown fans rendered their verdict on the officiating by yelling one word so long and so loud, it can't be repeated here.

"That's the loudest manure chant I've ever heard,'' NBC announcer Al Michaels said.

But more than feelings are getting hurt. In separate games, Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was concussed and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo could have been on helmet-to-helmet hits that weren't called.

It was slight consolation for Matt Schaub that the Broncos' Joe Mays was called for doing the same thing to him, because the Texans quarterback lost a chunk of his left earlobe in the vicious collision.

Players seem determined to try anything and everything they can get away with on the field, treating any penalties handed out after the fact - and a film review by the league - simply as the cost of doing business. All that unpunished extracurricular activity is why more plays have become the prelude to a fight.

"We're going to go out there and push the limit regardless,'' Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. "If they're calling a game tight, if they're calling a game loose, it's going to be pushed to the limit.''

On Sunday, the scenes of confusion on the field extended all the way up to the replay booth - see: San Francisco at Minnesota and Detroit at Tennessee. Add it all up and you're looking at officials playing larger and larger roles in longer games with less rhythm than ever.

The only thing the league office appeared to be in a hurry about - before Monday night's game - was boosting the charitable donations made by a few of its employees.

Earlier Monday, Denver coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio were docked $30,000 and $25,000, respectively, for verbally abusing the replacement officials on the Monday night game a week ago.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson says he's reviewing incidents involving Belichick and Ravens coach John Harbaugh, as well as Kyle Shanahan's tirade after the Redskins' loss to the Bengals.

All can expect to hear from him sooner rather than later. Now, the same might be true for the locked-out officials.

The consensus suggested that wouldn't happen until events forced the commissioner's hand, something like a blown call at the end of a game that cost a team a win.

It wasn't hard to see this one coming, something Browns kicker Phil Dawson practically predicted just hours earlier.

"Unfortunately, I feel like that it's like changing an intersection from a stop sign to a red light,'' Browns kicker Phil Dawson said. "You have to have so many car wrecks before they deem that intersection to be dangerous enough - and we're heading that way. Someone's going to lose a game, if it hasn't already happened, to get both sides to a pressure point to get a deal done. It's sad.''


Text Only
Sports Columnists
  • COLUMN: McDermott gets last shot to leave mark on the game

    You never know when a great basketball story is going to peak, so keep an eye out for Doug McDermott. If college basketball's power brokers get their way, you'll be seeing plenty of him over the next few weeks.

    March 18, 2014

  • COLUMN: Michael Sam bravely comes out. Now what?

    Michael Sam could've taken the - well, not the easy, but certainly the easier - way out by staying mum on his sexual orientation, at least until after the NFL draft.
    Instead, one of the nation's top college football players bravely decided to speak now, to tell the world he is gay at a time when NFL teams are grading the guys they'll be picking in a couple of months.

    February 10, 2014

  • COLUMN: Sherman wins the games, then loses his mind

    The bookies in Vegas reported a rare split picking the early favorite for the Super Bowl. At least there's no question about who's going to steal the show.
    That would be Seattle's supremely confident Richard Sherman, who's already staked a claim to being the NFL's most quotable cornerback since Deion Sanders. Fresh off making the game-saving play in the last minute of Sunday's NFC championship, Sherman gave America a taste of how juicy things could get over the next two weeks if his coach, Pete Carroll, doesn't clamp the equivalent of a ''Denver boot'' on the mouth of his All-Pro first.

    January 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Petrino says he's changed; yeah, right

    Bobby Petrino insists he's a changed man.
    Not the scoundrel who secretly interviewed for someone else's coaching job without telling his bosses, who abandoned the Atlanta Falcons with three games left in the season, who wrecked his motorcycle with his mistress aboard and lied about the sordid affair as long as he could.
    We're supposed to believe he's not that guy anymore.
    Yeah, right.

    January 11, 2014

  • COLUMN: A nation grieves and the NFL plays on

    Americans grieved in front of their television sets on a brutally grim Sunday afternoon 50 years ago as a horse-drawn caisson took the body of President Kennedy from the White House to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

    November 24, 2013

  • COLUMN: Fitting ending in cards for final BCS

    The Bowl Championship Series is in its death throes, and few are mourning its passing.
    Come next season, the path to the national championship will go through two playoff games, and a blue ribbon panel will pick the lucky participants. It's hardly a perfect system because invariably some worthy school will get left out, but it is a major step toward deciding the title mostly on the field instead of inside somebody's basement computer.

    November 6, 2013

  • COLUMN: Hard to imagine another chance for Tebow

    There was never any real reason to dislike Tim Tebow, who never pretended to be anything he wasn't. Blame him for the Tebowing craze, if you will, but even that was worth a few laughs in a league that doesn't always embrace fun.

    September 2, 2013

  • COLUMN: Time for baseball to really clean up act

    Of all those penalized in baseball's biggest doping scandal, at least Nelson Cruz had a good story to tell.
    No, his drink wasn't spiked with testosterone in a bar one night by a Texas Rangers fan desperate for a World Series win. That would be a bit hard to believe now, wouldn't it?

    August 6, 2013

  • COLUMN: Bruins stir OKC hockey memories

    Seeing the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals brings back some childhood memories going back to the days of the original Oklahoma City Blazers, who were a Bruins farm club from 1965-72.

    June 22, 2013

  • COLUMN: Perfect ending to OU's championship run

    Really, that’s about right.

    On the day Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso saves the nation’s best pitcher for a possible winner-take-all national championship game, the nation’s best pitcher’s back-up tosses a shutout and the nation’s best pitcher rips a three-run home run and drives in all four Sooner runs.

    June 5, 2013