Talk about something that needs further review. The NFL revived instant replay nearly a decade ago to reverse wrong calls by referees on the field. Twice already this season it's produced the opposite effect.
The first time, a month ago in a game featuring San Diego at Pittsburgh, an interception that Troy Polamalu ran back for a touchdown was incorrectly taken away after a review. On the plus side, officials acknowledged the mistake immediately after the Steelers won 11-10 - and the call didn't affect the outcome of the game, only the point spread.
On the other hand, the NFL didn't offer refunds to any of the gamblers who took Pittsburgh and gave the four points. By some estimates, those folks lost as much as $70 million.
The Baltimore Ravens won't be getting any payback from the league, either, even though this latest screw-up could wind up costing them a spot in the playoffs.
either broke the plane of the goal line at the moment of possession or not.
Officials on the field ruled the ball hadn't crossed the imaginary line extending upward from the goal line and placed the ball just inches shy of the white stripe. Then referee Walt Coleman looked at a replay, reversed the call and decided it was the winning touchdown in the Steelers' 13-9 victory.
Exactly what Coleman saw during his brief film session remains anyone's guess. League rules require overwhelming proof that the original call was wrong, and no one else who looked at the available camera angles provided to both officials and those looking in on TV were similarly swayed.
Even Holmes didn't sound entirely convinced.
``If I'd have continued to hold the ball out over the line from where my momentum was taking me,'' he said, ``I wouldn't have been in.''
Adding to the confusion, Coleman reversed the call on the field without announcing whether the ball had broken the plane - the point that decides whether it was a touchdown - only that Holmes had both feet in the end zone and possession of the ball. Afterward, he told a pool reporter that he had ruled the ball did break the plane and simply forgot to say so.
hed in between, it's still possible to get it wrong. On top of that, all the other arguments against instant replay have only gotten stronger with time.
Referees are more intimidated than ever - it makes games drag on longer, there's not always a decisive camera angle and the league's own studies continue to show that the calls on the field are almost always right. Even worse, this latest episode robbed NFL fans of what might have been one of the most interesting moments of the season.
Without the reversal, the Steelers, trailing 9-6 at the time, would have faced a fourth-down-and-inches and coach Mike Tomlin would have been forced to decide whether to try and punch it in for the winning score or kick a field goal to force overtime.
Instead, it's a moot point.
``No one will ever know unless coach tells,'' Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said during a brief interview as he headed for the locker room. ``I'm not going to tell what we were going to do.''
After last month's replay goof, league officials said they planned to hand the matter over to the competition committee to discuss ``potential administrative improvements that would help to prevent this type of mistake in the future.''
Oops, too late.
e, the league has been encouraging the myth that it's possible to get every call right.
It's an impossible burden for the refs to shoulder.
The real miracle is that they get it right as often as they do.
Shortly after opponents lost that fight, Val Pinchbeck, who used to head up the NFL's broadcasting arm, asked a question that got lost amid all the euphoria. In an interview at the time, he said, ``Can humans do it properly?''
After further review, the answer is still no.
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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org
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