Since the advent of instant replay, I’ve been troubled by what to do about whistle errors by the refs. If you recall, when replay was first instituted, an early whistle made fumble plays unreviewable no matter how egregious the error. That led to a great deal of frustration for players, coaches and fans when obvious fumbles and recoveries were ignored because an official jumped the gun or got it wrong.
Then along came the current rule that introduces the vague and undefinable flow-of play-situation: Even if there’s an early whistle, a fumble that occurs and is recovered by the opposition in the flow of play, or in an “immediate” manner, can be acknowledged and a change of possession granted. To me, that wasn’t much of an improvement over the initial rule, because it introduces the need for someone to make a subjective rather than objective judgment (what’s an ‘immediate’ recovery in the flow of play?)
After the game last night, we heard some experts say that the Razorbacks should have been awarded the ball because they recovered it after the backward pass, even though officials on field were blowing whistles and indicating an incomplete forward pass. That certainly seems to be the fairer outcome, but I’m an Arkansas fan and am not not an objective observer. The refs and league ruled, and later explained, that the recovery wasn’t of an immediate nature (which is true) and some players reacted to the whistles by stopping play (also true). Me and my Hog-colored glasses disagree, but I do acknowledge that it’s a reasonable interpretation of a vague and arcane rule.
Trouble is, the league made is the only ruling that counts. You can be sure if the league had ruled the other way, Auburn officials, coaches, players and fans would be just as incensed as we are.
While in general, replay is good because it improves the chances of getting calls right, it can’t put the tweets back in the whistle. Had there been no replay, the result would have been the same as what happened, and maybe that’s the end goal.
As for the “this always happens to Arkansas” and “the SEC is rigged” talk, I’m not buying. Every fan base can recite chapter and verse the hosings they received from referees and umpires. I’m sure Auburn has it’s own Mark Curles-Perry Costello-Horton Nsersta-Preston Watts list. I’m also pretty sure there are some old-timer Iowa State fans who can tell you the names of the officials who missed that there were 12 men on the field when a certain SWC power not based in Texas scored a winning touchdown late in a game in 1973.