I used to love the NFL. Maybe even more than baseball ... nah, but I loved it.
Until recently. Now you can't watch a game without a dozen OFFICIAL interruptions from the refs. And they have taken as much contact out of the game as possible. More and more every year. It's hard to recognize compared to the game I grew up watching. Sure, there were penalties and bad calls back then, but but at least they didn't stop the game, go to commercial, and then come back only to show you the same damn play at every angle.
A Short History of the Royals in April
•Royals ReviewOnly once in team history has a Kansas City club destined for 86 or more wins not been at least two games over .500 going into the month of May.
And they still haven't solved anything. There are still questionable calls in every game. Sometimes, replay makes things even worse. It's completely changed the game -- the coaching, the refs, the strategy, the viewing experience, everything.
Now, it's a part of baseball for some reason. Weren't things pretty good before? Why the hell did we need to add rules to the best game in existence?
Yesterday, I was watching a few games after the Royals lost and I saw several challenges. It seemed like there was a "flag" thrown in every game. And, if managers start to realize the arithmetical common sense displayed by Russell Carleton and Dan Brooks, we can expect to see at least one challenge a game. Probably two. It just makes sense to use everything you have to make any difference you can, but did the game lack this element? Or is it supposed to be absorbed as collateral damage?
The damage I'm referring to is the soap operatic pageantry that you see in the NFL. Where head coaches have become actors, but more importantly, they've become much more involved in the outcome of football games. Instead of teaching and drawing up strategies -- which they still do, of course -- their main focus during games has become the manipulation of it. For example, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh used to -- and may continue to -- employ a sneaky trick to gain an extra, unofficial timeout from the sidelines. He'd grimacingly hurtle his little flag onto the field after a play that he knew very well was unchallengeable -- the result being a stoppage in game action and a prolonged performance piece by the coach as the referees explained to him the rule he already knew and his team reset or made substitutions or simply rested. Whatever the goal was at the time.
It was annoying, and without his thinly veiled histrionics, it'd probably be deemed illegal. But it works. He doesn't do it for laughs. It's a calculated effort to give his team an edge that they wouldn't have without the added strategy of coach's challenges. Mathematically, every coach in the NFL should do this. Integrity be damned. It helps you win and that's what you're there to do.
Royals fans got to see something semi-similar last year when the Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny diplomatically attempted to get the game called due to the conditions of the field after a long rain delay. Because of an odd rule, the top half of the inning -- in which the Royals took the lead -- would not have counted and the Cardinals would've won the game on a bogus technicality. It was kind of slimy. I wrote a pretty angsty response called "Dirty." Probably a little over the top, but it just seemed devious, and as I've proven a few times, I say dumb stuff sometimes.
But of course Matheny and Mozeliak tried to get the game called. They would've won.
Brad Ausmus and Miguel Cabrera did a little vaudeville like this in yesterday's game as well. It was more subdued, but it seemed pretty apparent.
Norichika Aoki tapped a pitched from Al Albuquerque in front of the mound and hustled to first. He was called safe. He was clearly out, but "the call on the field" was safe. Ausmus could challenge the play within the rules, but the whole situation is still a little opaque. In what appeared to be a time-buying ruse, Miguel Cabrera started hobbling around the infield. The Tigers' athletic trainer -- or somebody else on the medical team -- came out on the field and Ausmus followed heading for the first base umpire. The call got overturned -- rightfully so.
The ball beat Aoki. He was out. But how long until this entire process turns into the interpretative dance that has transformed the NFL?
Instant replay hasn't solved pro football's problems. It has only altered them and made them more conspicuous.
Baseball was perfect the way it was -- or as close as you can get anyway.