July 2016 – No Challenge At All (Redux)

So to my friends who may read this blog…I have a little confession to make: I HAVE watched every CFL game since boycotting the league several weeks ago. Let me explain. As an experiment, I’ve devoted ALL my attention to every game UP TO THE POINT when one Head Coach or other throws that little yellow flag, and I end up putting an asterisk next to the result and VOMITING on the page.

As the season has evolved this “coach’s challenge” thing has evolved with it. When the league expanded the list of infractions Head Coaches were allowed to call ONE THING was immediately clear: before long there would be a spotter on EVERY player on the field, ensuring FULL COVERAGE in case of need. THIS is where we are NOW.

NEED is inevitably defined as the most crucial play of the game, when this blanket “eye in the sky” posse of un-deputized officials will make or break a team’s fortunes. The Coach who chooses the right time to throw the flag, and has the best gang of spotters is MOST likely to win the game.

THIS is not the game I fell in love with decades ago.

There was a time in this league where heart, talent and determination swung the balance…won the day. NOW the TRUE heroes of any gridiron encounter are underpaid spotters, armed with a hotdog in one hand and a pair of binoculars in another. When it gets down to crunch time, and the coach needs to pull a miracle out of his ass…give a call to these potbellied gladiators…they’re sure to save the day.

But that’s not the end of it. Some well-intentioned HC’s have a less than complete understanding of exactly what “absence of a penalty” they’re allowed to challenge. We’ve EVEN seen some buffoon call the refs over and offer them an option list of several possible infractions, “and if I challenge this one…you think I’m allowed to do that? Blink if you mean yes.”

I’ll give you 2 guesses…

If the language gets a bit confused…I’m certainly NOT alone. In avoiding calling it what it most certainly is: coaches calling penalties…refs have found themselves creating a whole new grammar.

We’ve heard, “The coach is challenging the ruling on the field…that there WAS pass interference.” When there was NO ruling on the field whatsoever.

Then there’s, “The coach is challenging the play…that there was pass interference.” Challenging a “play” is quite a trick. I’m sure I saw a play.

The list is endless…Frankly, if the league is determined to give coaches the option of “challenging” the potentiality of something, why not make it interesting? You’re down 35-6 in the 4th quarter, why not do THIS? “The coach is challenging that there is a purple leprechaun hovering above the 30 yard line. Replay cannot confirm or deny the presence of a hovering leprechaun, so the game is called.”

But in the absence of such entertaining challenges, I fail to see the value of a game that has suddenly made spotters, and what they do, the most CRUCIAL element of any game. And I mean ANY, because despite some pretty exciting football, I haven’t been able to sit through ONE DAMNED GAME without turning it off in disgust.

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