The goal of instant replay was to fix the big mistakes, the real stink-bomb officiating decisions. Now it's an exercise in microsurgery, and all the wacky plays out there are caught on tape and analyzed in slo-mo, and the rules makers get together the following spring and drudge up more legislation out of them. Remember the "Tuck Rule" nonsense? John Madden's on-air counter to that one was, "If it looks like a fumble and everybody thinks it's a fumble, then it should be a fumble."
On Sunday in Chicago, Lions WR Calvin Johnson snagged a pass in the endzone. One foot down, two feet down, backside down … touchdown! Except Johnson, whose hand is broad enough to smother a basketball, slammed the football to the turf as he landed and it popped free. Whoops, said the men in stripes — incomplete! See, it says right here!
Rulebook explanation — "in order for the catch to be completed, the receiver must maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire process of the catch." Something like that. And a likely game-winning score was thus overturned. A victory for legislative overkill, for the offseason microsurgeons.
Suggested amendment — if it looks like a touchdown, and everyone thinks it's a touchdown, then …
Opening-week wreckage survey — Bob Sanders (elbow, out indefinitely), Kris Jenkins (knee, out for season), Ryan Grant (ankle, out for season), Matthew Stafford (shoulder, out indefinitely), Kevin Boss (concussion, out indefinitely), Paul Posluszny (knee, out 2-3 weeks), Kevin Kolb (concussion, out indefinitely). Those are the A-listers.
Keep bulldogging that 18-game schedule, right commish?
Houston's Arian Foster slices the Colts to ribbons with 231 yards on the ground, but the opening day rushing garland still hangs on O.J. Simpson. Ah, The Juice … kickstarting his grand march of 1973 with 250 yards of charges into the Patriots' gut.
The Bills won it, and a cheery O.J. let the Buffalo game plan slip in his postgame interview. "They wanted to lock down our outside runs," he told reporters, "so we just turned all our plays up the inside and we had great holes. The funny thing is, I was supposed to be the decoy today."
Larry Watkins, a reject from the '73 Eagles camp, was set to handle the heavy lifting that day, a move meant to discourage the constant hounding of Simpson. Such trickery. The Wile E. Coyote playbook. He got 105 yards and two TDs. One time I questioned Chuck Fairbanks, the Pats' rookie coach in '73, what he remembered about that Watkins' stratagem.
"Believe me," Fairbanks said, "we weren't fooled."
Unwelcome words, from coach to player — "Stay in school, son." That was Pete Carroll to Mark Sanchez on USC's campus two years back.
"Glad to have ya, kid!" That was the Ravens' "D" to Sanchez, Monday night. A 10-for-21 passing night for just 74 yards. The longest Jets drive goes for 35 yards. Just six first downs all night. The Jets needed the kid to be Richard Todd to win that game, a couple big whips of the arm, even for just a drive. Instead, they got Browning Nagle.
Falcons-Steelers game in the flesh. The stadium fills like well-wishers filing past a casket. Whispers and handshakes and moments of reflection. And yes, patches of empty Heinz Field seats. Maybe it's the thrill of Dennis Dixon, a third-stringer opening at quarterback that soaked down the mood. The somberness reminded me of a yarn told by Lindsey "Ball on the 29-yard-line" Nelson, the classy old TV/radio man. He would talk about a day at the Poinsettia Bowl, a military matchup played decades ago.
"They played it at Balboa Stadium in San Diego," he said. "1952, Coast-to-coast on NBC. Bolling Field versus the San Diego Naval Training Center. It rained like crazy and nobody came. So NBC got the Shore Patrol to go to the bars and round up the sailors and bring them to the game. They got 300 of them and packed them into one section of the stadium.
"When we needed a crowd shot, we put the camera on the 300. The SPs were guarding them so they couldn't get away."
OK, it wasn't quite that bad.
Tom Danyluk is an award-winning freelance writer based in Chicago.