The NFL has never really grasped the law of unintended consequences, the realization that every action produces effects that are unanticipated.
On the surface the league’s reliance on technology to improve the administration of potential officiating errors in the postseason–something many believe is already going on–makes sense. After all, the enhanced communication between the on-site officials and Dean Blandino and his crew in New York has the potential to clean up some high-profile, and often embarrassing, errors.
But the suspicion, and in some cases outright paranoia, that this is already going on in a clandestine fashion exposes the major pitfall in the new regulations, the fact that it will create a whole new breeding ground for those predisposed to the conspiracy theory.
The guy who preceded Blandino as the NFL’s V.P. of Officiating, FOX rules analyst Mike Pereira, addressed the potential issue when talking with ESPN.com.
“Basically, what it looks like is that the league office is making decisions on who possibly wins or loses the game,” Pereira told ESPN. “You could go back to the old theory of the conspiracy of the Raiders, that the league didn’t like (former owner) Al Davis and all the stuff that went along with it. All of a sudden, decisions that were being made on the field or in the stadium, all of a sudden are being made in the league office. That seems to be the wave of where this is going.”
Pereira’s wording is a bit skewed, but his thesis is solid. The majority of fans are never going all in on the conspiracy route but a significant percentage will, and having New York involved in certain issues will create an environment in which the black-helicopter crowd will thrive in.
For instance, market size seems to always be an issue with that group and the minute the Giants or Jets are rewarded by a decree coming from their own backyard, a certain constituency will read into that. Similarly, if the Patriots are hurt in this postseason, it will be Roger Goodell taking his revenge for a federal court overruling his heavy-handed suspension of Tom Brady, at least to some.
The league insists that Blandino will not stick his nose into judgment calls, but most believe the batted ball that cost Detroit against Seattle earlier this season was something that helped spawn this action. By definition that was a judgment call, albeit a bad one, and few doubt if it happened again, Blandino would be on the Bat Phone overruling the on-field officials.
Whether that perception is reality really isn’t the point either. With its now trademarked, shortsighted thinking, the NFL has created a whole new avenue for the appearance of impropriety, something any ethics class will teach you to avoid just as much as actual impropriety.
Pereira himself has already evolved into a bit of a conspiracy theorist himself, as he believes Blandino has been whispering in the ears of his officials for quite some time.
“There’s really no context in the rule book for allowing the replay official or New York to give any input, so it’s not something they would acknowledge. But really, to think that it wasn’t happening is probably being very, very, very naive,” he said.
If Pereira’s belief is true and Blandino is already knee deep in this, then the tweak is a disaster waiting to happen because NFL officiating has never been lesser regarded.
And now instead of one official being blamed for the big mistake which costs a team a game and all the reverberations that might cause, the league office would be on the hook.
And one rogue official is certainly a better look than systematic incompetence from the NFL.
“I don’t want to sound critical, but there have been some inconsistencies in the decisions that New York has made on replays this year,” ex-official and ESPN analyst Gerry Austin said. “So what would you be doing? Would you just be shifting the inconsistency you may perceive on the field for the inconsistency from New York?”
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the brilliant political scientist who once served as Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, said “History is much more the product of chaos than of conspiracy.”
Bad calls are born out of that chaos. Legislating them from New York creates conspiracy.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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