NFL Officiating (Again) Under Fire

The 1st weekend of the NFL Playoffs concludes, and the certainties all followed suit. The league drew tremendous ratings, at least 1 game went down to the wire, & there was an egregious officiating error. The non-Pass Interference call in the 4th quarter showcases a flaw in NFL officiating that never ceases to amaze me.

Here’s what happened: Game was in the 4th quarter, 8:25 remaining, Cowboys linebacker rookie Anthony Hitchens breaks up a pass intended for Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a 3rd & 1 pass from the Dallas 46. Hitches was initially called for Pass Interference, but suddenly changed the call to no penalty. Instead of a 1st down, and the Lions eventually punted on a 4th and 1. (Why they didn’t go for it is something Lions’ fans will be haunted by all summer.) The Cowboys scored the game-winning points on their next drive.

The play looked like an obvious call, and considering the Cowboys were the benefactor of the good call, I understand all the people who complain that the sport is fixed. It’s not, but on days like this, it’s hard to argue the point.

The problem as I see it, is that for all the billions that the NFL makes in gross revenue, officials are still part-time employees. They have other jobs, and it has been like that for years. My simple questions for the league is, if you all paid those officials triple what they currently make, would any owner feel that loss? Lock these officials up with cushy contracts. Since an official only works at most 20 games in a season (and that’s if they are outstanding at their job), there is a lot of down time. There are plenty of things to do. For example, officials can spend all week looking at other game films. They can be farmed out to other levels of high school & college football. They can spend as much time as necessary to make the officiating process close to flawless as possible.

I don’t want to take the human element out of sports, and I don’t mean to demean these officials because I respect that they are professionals. I just don’t think part-time officials should be governing over multi-million dollar sporting events.

The NFL is under no pressure to fix their officials. The sports has weathered off-field controversies such as domestic abuse and child endangerment. Somehow I can’t see how Pass Interference will make anyone in the Commissioner’s office lose any sleep.