Football, imperfection, and the “California tie breaker”

Good piece from The Ringer‘s Kevin Clark looking at the aftermath of the already infamous non-call of pass interference on Los Angeles Rams’ defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman near the end of the NFC championship game. If you’re not a football fan: the clearly blown call had a good chance of impacting the final result.

This made me think about the degree of human error that is impossible to eliminate in all sports, whether it’s football, basketball, baseball, or even individual sports like tennis. Was that ball out of bounds? Maybe don’t ask John McEnroe on a bad day.

In this era of high definition, up to the second reactions worldwide via social media, and (increasingly legal) gambling in both traditional and fantasy forms, I do wonder what’s going to need to change over time to ensure better officiating. Major sports leagues have been experimenting with video replay reviews for years, with varying results of course, but the blown call from the Rams @ Saints game shows that we’re a long way from figuring things out, even for arguably the most important play in a game that would decide one of the participants in the year’s most important game/global television event.

In any event, I was fascinated by a novel (to me) idea for improving overtime rules in football, which most people agree needs some bolstering, particularly after the New England Patriots earned their 150th straight Super Bowl appearance after summarily marching down the field in the AFC championship game, and thus leaving phenom quarterback Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs on the bench with no opportunity to help his team post-regulation. The idea, the “California tie breaker,” comes out of high school football from the 1970s and 1980s. It involves each team swapping offensive opportunities in something of a “speed chess” round.

This post originally appeared in what had originally been called The Eric Berlin E-mail Newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.

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