9 Calls Worse Than Yesterday’s Bears/Lions Decision
Whenever we get too comfortable with the job our referees are doing, there’s always a play like the one in yesterday’s in Bears/Lions game to shake things up and merit new discussions on how much our refs suck. While the call seemed to be inline with the rule, the fact remains that any rule declaring that Calvin Johnson didn’t catch that touchdown pass is probably ill-conceived to begin with.
In the spirit of constructive discussion (yeah, right), we have compiled a list of nine other instances that dwarf the Calvin Johnson incident through either stupid rule-making or stupid rule-enforcing. Here ya go…
1. Ed Hochuli Call
Two years ago in a fiercely competitive Chargers-Broncos game, Cutler and Co. were knocking on the door of the end zone at the Chargers’ 10 yard line when he dropped back to pass. He was hurried, and the pass bounced off the ground and into the arms of a Chargers lineman.
The only problem was it wasn’t a pass. It was a fumble. That point was moot, however, as Hochuli had blown the play dead despite the fact that Cutler clearly let the ball slip loose. It was an uncharacteristic bad call from arguably the game’s best ref, but it will be part of his legacy now, as he admitted fault. The Broncos went on to score and win the game as a result.
2. Tuck Rule
Perhaps the benchmark for sketchy calls in recent history, this call wasn’t blown by the refs, but by the fact that such an obscure, counterintuitive rule could affect the outcome of a nationally televised playoff game.
In January, 2002, the Raiders were up against the Pats in an AFC Divisional Playoff game. Snow was everywhere and the back and forth nature of the game demonstrated that this one could be one for the record books. However, it was destined to become one for all the wrong reasons.
With Pats down 3 in the waning minutes, Brady falls back to pass, with Charles Woodson blitzing from the secondary. Woodson knocks the ball lose, to have it recovered by a fellow Raider. The fumble call is reversed due to an obscure rule on the books that says if the QB stops short of the pass to bring the ball back in and loses control, it’s still to be ruled an incomplete pass. Pats kept the ball, Vinatieri kicked a 45 yarder in the snow to go to OT, and the Pats ran with their momentum through OT into the next round.
3. Pine Tar Incident
The sticky, resin-y substance known as pine tar was the sole cause of one of the biggest sporting controversies during the 80’s, and perhaps the defining moment of George Brett’s career.
The Royals were down 3-4 against the Yankees in July, 1983. George Brett’s at the plat,e and he knocks a 2-run blast to give the Royals the lead. However, as he crosses home, Yankee skipper Billy Martin notices that the pine tar on Brett’s bat goes a little too high up the club.
They measured the amount of pine tar on the bat against the width of home plate and found it to exceed the 18 inches that are allowed. Consequently, an elated Brett was followed into the dugout and called out. He was no longer elated. He argued up a storm on the field, but to no avail. The Royals knew they were going to protest the call, so they sent a batboy to hide with the bat so it couldn’t be used against them.
Eventually, the AL commissioner allowed the home run and forced them to replay the last minutes of the game after the home run. The Royals ended up getting their credit for the win, but not without some serious drama.
4. Stadler’s Clean Pants Cost Him a PGA Tourney Placing
There is no shortage of ridiculous rules that have carried too much weight in PGA history. Almost the entire PGA rule book is predicated on scenarios that are steeped more in tradition and decorum than any practical matter. While many examples of these rules exist, Craig Stadler’s fate is perhaps the most exemplary.
While playing in a tournament, the Walrus found himself in a bad lie that required him to kneel. Not wanting to dirty his pants, he laid down a towel under his knees. He hit his shot, moved on in the tourney and was well on his way to placing a day or two later. However, once his shot was televised, tipsters everywhere called in to notify the PGA that the towel had helped Stadler “build a stance” and required a two-stroke penalty. Fine, whatever. However, because the round had ended and he had signed his scorecard without taking into account that penalty, he was DQ’d from the tourney and didn’t see dime one.
(Regretfully, no video is available of this breach, but it’s golf, so use your imagination.)
5. Joey Crawford Double Technical on Duncan
Never has the arbitrary nature of NBA refereeing been more apparent than on ref Joey Crawford’s off-the-deep end vendetta against Tim Duncan a few years ago in what I recall being the last regular season game between rivals Dallas and San Antonio.
From the bench, Duncan guffawed at a no-call which led Joey Crawford to call the first technical. While it was unlikely that Duncan said anything too inflammatory, everyone gave veteran Crawford the benefit of the doubt in the call. While Duncan remained seated, looking incredulous, play resumed. After the Mavs got a foul call on the next possession, Crawford stormed over to Duncan and teed him up again for laughing. With that, Duncan was ejected.
Crawford was overheard saying something to the effect of “You wanna fight? We’ll fight.” during the exchange, further cementing the fact that he may have gone off the deep end, if only for a moment. He was suspended for the playoffs following his little outburst and Duncan was back the next game to lead the Spurs into the playoffs.
6. Soviets’ Extra Time – ‘72 Olympics Gold Medal Game
With the US up by 1 in the basketball gold medal game of the 1972 Olympics, the Soviets inbounded immediately, as the clock was still running. However, due to a disturbance they caused at the scorers’ table claiming they should have been awarded a timeout earlier, play was stopped and the Soviets were allowed to throw in the ball again with time stopped and a set play designed.
On the second attempt, the referees instructed the USSR to inbound the ball despite the fact that the game clock hadn’t been reset and was at 50 seconds instead of 3. The Soviets chucked the ball down the length of the court, missed the mark and the whistle blew.
However, the blown whistle was actually a notification from the scorers’ table that the play should be stopped because the clock hadn’t been reset. Instead of signifying the end of the game, the horn actually beckoned back the jubilant USA players for one more go-round.
Predictably, the third time was a charm and the Soviets sank the basket and got the Gold. The US team stormed off in protest and never collected their Silver medals. This chain of events lives on as perhaps the biggest controversy in Olympic history and is often a reference point as to the incompetence and biases of Olympic officials.
7. Maradona Hand of God
There are sports scandals and then there are just blown calls. And Maradona’s goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals was simply a blown call. Going up for a challenge against a much taller goalie, Maradona raised his fist and bumped the ball into the goal. Apparently everyone saw it happen but the ref, who allowed the goal. Even Maradona had to convince his teammates to come up and hug him, otherwise the refs would be suspicious. What a class act. The goal counted and Argentina won, causing Maradona to claim that the goal was the result of “a little of the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” The phrase stuck and the “hand of God” goal was born.
8. France – Ireland Henry Handball
Thierry Henry and the French soccer team were other such beneficiaries of shoddy reffing, this time during the World Cup qualifiers in November of ’09. In extra time, Henry clearly hit the ball with his hand to facilitate a goal. While the goal would keep Ireland from qualifying for the World Cup, more egregious was the French coach’s indignation when asked about the event.
After the game, Henry admitted his handball was intentional, but that did little to comfort the millions of Irish fans who felt robbed.
9. Colorado – Missouri 5th Down
Sometimes, even asking the refs to count to four can be a tall order. While the backstory here could take pages, essentially, Colorado was down by 4 in the last seconds of the game. Their backup quarterback marches them down the field, giving them a first down with 40 seconds left. The first down play was a spike to stop the clock. The second down was a run up the middle that fell short of the goal line. Colorado called a timeout while the officials forgot to flip the down marker to signify third down. A power run again up the middle yielded nothing on the next play, which really had been third down but was shown on the field as still second. On what was really fourth down, the QB spiked the ball. However, since the field showed it was only third down on that play, CU was able to punch the ball in for the win. Buffalo fans rejoiced and thanked their lucky stars that instant replay was not yet in use.