On January 7, 2015, an official from the office of NFL referees came out and announced an apology. Many might think that this apology would be for the botched pass interference call in the wild card game featuring the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions. The “Phantom Flag” (trademark John Anderson) has garnered so much attention that President of the United States, Barrack Obama, took to Twitter to voice his opinion.
“The call is announced and then reversed without explanation. I haven’t seen that before. So I will leave it up to the experts to make the judgment as to why that happened, but I can tell you if I was a Lions fan I’d be pretty aggravated.”
Mr. President, if you want to see aggravated, wait until this news breaks to the hometown faithful in Detroit: The apology that I alluded to earlier was in regards to a missed holding call on a later drive by the Cowboys. The officiating offices stood by the Phantom Flag, stating that the pass interference call was too subjective to make a certain call on.
Are you kidding me?!
“Lions fans, can you open up that wound on your chest for me please? That’s it, just a bit wider. Now hold it open while I pour some salt in there. Yeah, nice and deep. Wouldn’t want you not feeling the sting on your bones.”
I can only assume this is what the people crafting this apology were thinking when they decided that this was a better idea than saying and doing nothing. There were bad calls made and missed both ways in that game. Many analysts will tell you that you could call holding on virtually every play of a game. The correct response here would have been to do nothing. Yes, that was a really bad call on a big stage, but there aren’t a ton of people out there that feel like the Lions really deserved to win that game. It would have disappeared by the end of the playoffs (assuming the Dallas Cowboys don’t do something stupid like win the Super Bowl).
For those of you clamoring for the collective heads of this officiating crew, I will remind you that the alternative of substitute referees (that we all endured for a few weeks a couple of years ago) is a far worse fate. The average officiating crew may not get every call right. The head office of officiating may not get an apology right, but these guys are the lesser of two evils. Short of having electronic sensors on every part of each player’s body and doing the whole thing on computers, this may be as good as we get. If league officials can learn to pick up a flag, surely they can learn from their mistakes (and apologies).