Thursday, November 03, 2005

Palpably unfair

I may have learned something about the NFL's football rules that I had no idea existed. This is great, if I understand it correctly. I walked into the house yesterday and flipped on the NFL channel. I just caught the tail end of an interview with the NFL's director of officials. He was telling the interviewer that an NFL referee has the authority to make a ruling called "a palpably unfair act." This means, if I understand it correctly, that the referee can rule that an aggrieved player's intent was denied him by so palpably unfair an act that the referee can grant him his intent, up to and including a touchdown.

Here is how I think it might work. A ballcarrier is about to score a sure touchdown. A desperate defensive player grabs the ballcarrier's facemask and twists him to the ground short of the goal line. The closest official rightfully calls the facemask penalty and awards the ballcarrier's team the ball at the spot of the infraction plus half the distance to the goal, first down and goal. According to what I saw and heard yesterday, and, again, I just caught the tail end of it, the referee can overrule the official who made that call. The referee can rule that the facemask grab was "a palpably unfair act" which denied the ballcarrier his intent, a sure touchdown, and award him the 6 points. Neat, huh? I have never heard of this before.

I am trying to remember something that I saw happen many years ago in a game in the old AFL. A player had intercepted a pass and was running along the sidelines with an open path to a sure touchdown. As he ran by the other team's players standing along the sideline, one of them reached out and clotheslined the guy. I think that it was Kansas City vs Oakland and that Ben Davidson was the clothesliner, but I'm not too sure. This might have been another case of "a palpably unfair act" which denied the Chiefs a sure touchdown and, according to my recollections of the short blurb I saw yesterday, an NFL referee has the authority to award the TD in such an instance.

I have written to the NFL's Total Access group for a clarification and the exact rule number as well as asked them if this rule has ever been enforced in a game. I'll let you know what they say.


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