Saturday, September 06, 2008

Calling bullshit

Did you see that flag at the end of the BYU-Washington game?

As a part of a Husky household, it's hard not to be emotional about that call. In case you missed it, Washington quarterback Jake Locker scored on a draw with two seconds remaining, pulling the Huskies within a point of a ranked, non-conference opponent.

The PAT should have been a no-brainer, as they usually are. Until someone noticed there was a yellow flag in the end zone. Locker was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the PAT was pushed 15 yards back. The kick was blocked, sending Washington to an unexpected loss (though it's very much a possibility they could have lost in overtime).

Locker dove over the goalline, popped up and dropped the ball over his shoulder, like he was trying to reach an itch on his back before proceeding to celebrate with his teammates. In the officials' view, this was unsportsmanlike conduct.

Except it wasn't.

Given the situation and the call, it was as horseshit a call as you'll see. Officials are supposed to be like reporters: never inject yourself into the story. Yet here we are, talking about how these officials decided a game on a questionable call at the game's ultimate moment. (And BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's interview after the game didn't help. "The rules are the rules," he said, but you can bet he'd have had a hernia if the flag didn't hand his team a win.)

Was it merely a misinterpretation of the NCAA's new, get-tough rules? Or was it just an awful call, limited only in scope by the game it affected?

There is a lot not to like about the NCAA. No other organization is so blind to reality; at postseason tournaments, the players are unfailingly referred to as student-athletes, yet there is at least some part of the population that is all of the latter and none of the former. The NCAA will always be happy to tell you how great and wonderful college athletics is, and yet when a situation contradicts that - as often happens - it's simply a rogue trying to gain an advantage.

And so with this, as the NCAA tries to crack down on showboating and me-first celebrations, taking a page from the No Fun League.

But I defy you to tell me that Locker's celebration was worthy of a penalty. Tell me that, at the moment of the touchdown, all the Cougar fans back in Provo or SLC pointed to the TV and screamed, "That should be a penalty!!!"

You can't, because you didn't. No right-minded person would have.

Washington got jobbed. Even the most frothing Wazzu or Oregon fan could not help but agree on this, not if they were being honest and not just putting on a show.

They were Pac-10 officials, and a statement from that league ought to be forthcoming. I won't advocate suspension or expulsion for this crew, but the Pac-10 simply must remind its officials that, in the end, common sense must prevail.

Because Lord knows we can't count on the NCAA for such a thing.


Anonymous said...

God bless my lovely husband for such wonderful commentary. As a third-generation Husky I am appalled by the outcome of the game. It is ridiculous that referees would take the game into their hands at the bitter end of the 4th quarter. As Hustle said, the NCAA should take this as an example as to why the rules need to change, but I, too, sincerely doubt that logic and common sense will prevail.
-- Hustle's wife

Anonymous said...

Total bullshit call! And I'm a frigging Duck for christ's sake!