Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo ran every Thursday during the NFL season. Buy his book here.
What you’re about to see isn’t out of the ordinary as far as shitty booth reviews go. The call in question happened during the Monday Night peanut fight between the Dolphins and the Steelers. Steelers wideout Diontae Johnson had a catch nullified by an OPI call that required Johnson actively shivving the defender—last remaining useful Dolphin Xavien Howard, now hurt—in the base of his spine to even qualify as ticky-tack. But the refs threw a flag anyway and the Steelers, no strangers to acts of angry futility, challenged the penalty even though you’ll be able to inflate a balloon with your own asshole before one of these calls ever gets reversed. See for yourself:
The call stood, because of course it did. But that’s not why I’m here today. You already know that the NFC title game spawned a whole new genre of wild goose chase for NFL coaches with an itchy challenge flag hand. I’m here because the ESPN was still in commercials when the ref announced to the crowd that the call stood. They only rejoined the broadcast after all that delightful pageantry had taken place.
This is not the first time this has happened this season. In fact, it’s happened enough times to gain the notice of enterprising sloths such as myself. Prior to this season, you could count on nearly every single booth review verdict to be shown on television. Sometimes the broadcast would skip the announcement if the call in question was so evidently right or wrong that the verdict was inevitable. And given that this is NFL officiating, I’m saying that the ref had to have called a sideline warning during the halftime show for it to be clear-cut enough to ignore come final judgment.
Those standards have been loosened this season. I know that the Steelers had virtually no chance of getting Johnson’s penalty overturned, but that’s not because the VIDEO made it clear. Quite the contrary. The video showed Johnson barely brushing lint off of Howard. He should have been awarded a catch. He was not. I assume the towel-eaters at Heinz Field took this final call with the graciousness they’re so famous for. But of course, I didn’t get a chance to witness that reaction in real time. As far as Joe Tessitore was concerned, it was over and done. Something to be forgotten.
This is by design. The NFL clearly knows that its replay system is not only ineffective, but also deeply unpopular. One way to help blunt the outrage is by memory-holing the final call by having it announced while you’re staring at Arby’s having the meats in a commercial. It’s no coincidence that every network has now adopted this practice. It’s a goddamn conspiracy.
ROGER GOODELL ORDERED ALL THE NETWORKS TO BURY THESE REPLAYS SO NO ONE WOULD BE MAD AT HIM AND SO HE WOULDN’T HAVE TO HOLD LOTS OF TOP SECRET MEETINGS AND DENY PIZZA TO SOBURDINATES UNTIL THEY FOUND A WAY TO “ASSUME LEADERSHIP IN THE SLOW MOTION REVIEW PROCESS SPACE” AND ANY NETWORK THAT IGNORED HIS MANDATE WAS THREATENED WITH WATERBOARDING AND FRONT ROW SEATS TO DOLPHINS/BENGALS.
That’s what has happened here. To confirm it, I asked Sunday Night Football executive producer Fred Gaudelli if he had been ordered by the league to banish more shit to the commercial break. Here was his reply:
I’m certain we’ve shown the vast majority of replay decisions that were announced in commercial as the first element out of the commercial break the entire season. Certainly any call that was overturned was played back as the first element out of the commercial break every single time. I know we skipped a “stands call” in our last game and just had Al Michaels say the call on the field was ruled to stand and showed two angles of the play. No one from anywhere has asked me to do otherwise.
Okay, that all sounds reasonable… which only CONFIRMS my (true) theory that all of them are hiding something. Something EVIL.
In a way, this is a pleasant development. I don’t like sitting through challenges any more than you do. And I hear Bill Vinovich’s voice on my television more than the President. These stoppages are a problem. In a normal sports league, such a dilemma would highlight obvious flaws in the replay process: it takes too long, it puts the refs needlessly front and center, and they usually end up getting it WRONG anyway.
That last part is key. As Guardian of the Shield, Roger Goodell doesn’t enjoy looking wrong, and he certainly doesn’t enjoy looking VISIBLY wrong. But that’s what often ends up happening when they broadcast the final call. You and the fans sitting in the stands get to bear witness to a process failing in real time, and you get to jeer accordingly. To boo these refs is to boo Goodell himself. And so, in typical Goodellian fashion, he’s rather just bury the problem than actively solve it. You can’t complain about any of this shit if you can’t see it. But I see it. And Rog, you vastly underestimate my ability to make a racket about shit going on hundreds of miles away from my keyboard. I know what you’re doing, you ginger swine. THE CHALLENGE SYSTEM IS STILL ASS AND YOU WON’T UN-FUCK IT.