Wednesday 19 October 2011

Calling For Change

With just under six minutes left to play in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes, the Ti-Cats were scrimmaging first and 10 from the Als' 29-yard line. Kevin Glenn threw a pass to the end zone towards Chris Williams. The catch was made simultaneously by Williams and Montreal Defensive Back Seth Williams. When both players came down to the ground, the ball was knocked loose and the ruling on the field was incomplete.

The ruling on the field was wrong.

In watching a replay of the play (the play itself starts at 16:08, and replays are shown at 16:32, 16:45 and 17:32), it is clear to see that Chris Williams catches the pass, takes four steps, falls to the ground out of bounds before Seth Williams knocks the ball out of the hands of Chris Williams.

When TSN showed a replay of questionable play, both Gord Miller and Matt Dunigan said that the call on the field should have been a touchdown.

Under normal circumstances, Hamilton would have challenged the call and had it reversed; however, Hamilton had used their challenge earlier in the game, so they did could not challenge the play.

Prior to the start of their 2011 season, the National Football League instituted a new rule that sees every scoring play reviewed automatically by the replay booth to ensure that the correct call was made. It is a great rule, one that prevents coaches for using challenges to review scoring plays while also making sure that the correct call is made. Scoring plays are the most crucial calls in the game, and an incorrect one could be the difference between winning and losing. (For the record, Hamilton lost to Montreal 27-25.)

The CFL however, has no such rule in place, but they should.

In fact, the CFL should take it one step further and make all potential scoring plays automatically reviewable. This way, a mistake such as the one made on the play above does not stand. Or, the ruling on the field does stand and everyone from player to coach to media member to fan can get a clear interpretation on what is and isn't a catch.

I put this same idea out there earlier in the week, both here and on various CFL-related fora, and the response is mixed. Not-so-surprisingly, it seems that the vast majority of Tiger-Cat fans are behind such a rule change, while fans of other teams – mostly Montreal Alouette fans – are the ones most strenuously objecting to it.

What seems to be the main point of contention is that adding these replays would make the games last longer.

That's a nonsense claim.

First off, the games have not lasted much longer in the NFL this season with their rule change. Secondly, any additional time added-on to games because of this rule would benefit, not detract, for the overall enjoyment of the game. It's more important to get the call right than to get the call quickly.

The human element will always be a part of football, but the ability to make sure the correct call gets made is available. It seems illogical to stand in the way of progress.

I hope the CFL seriously considers making this small, but crucial change prior to the start of the 2012 season.

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