Monday, November 02, 2015

After Eight Laterals, Some Want to Keep Going Back

On Saturday night I was up watching the World Series when I saw a score for the Miami-Duke college football game. It was late in the fourth quarter, and Miami had a 24-19 lead.

I’m not much of a college football fan, actually, and only have an occasional interest in rooting on my alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill. (Am much more into college b-ball, although even there I tend to prefer the NBA.) Aware that the Heels and Duke are battling for the top spot in the Coastal Division, I nonetheless decided to switch over to see the end of the game.

I got to see Duke conduct what appeared to be a fairly strange drive that went 80 yards in less than two minutes, conspicuously marked by three defensive pass interference calls including a couple in which the flags were thrown very late. Inside the last half-minute there was some strangeness from the refs having to do with adding time to the clock. Then the final play -- a one-yard QB sneak for a score -- didn’t even appear to be a touchdown although there were no decent replays available to confirm one way or another.

I’ll fully admit to being a biased observer, rooting against Duke and feeling fairly dismayed to see them grab the lead -- unfairly, it seemed! -- with just six seconds left, then add a two-point conversion to go up 27-24. Then came the play which you’ve all heard about by now, the truly manic, eight-lateral kickoff return ending in a Miami score to win the game for the Hurricanes, 30-27.

Was kind of nutty to watch happen live, especially after those many backward passes had carried Miami all the way back inside their own five-yard line before the dramatic, rumbling rush down the sideline finally commenced. Of course the whole while I was holding my breath, frankly expecting a flag to be thrown to break the spell and snuff out the result. I didn’t find out until later Miami had been penalized an incredible 23 times (to just five for Duke), but somehow they escaped getting nabbed a 24th time.

There was about a 10-minute long review of the play, causing suspense regarding it to linger still further, with the ref committing his own false start of an explanation once before coming back to clarify the ruling. From there Miami’s team and fans rejoiced, and the immersive investigation of all facets of the final play commenced over social media with Zapruder-like scrutiny until several violations were identified, including multiple missed penalties and a moment when a player might have been declared down.

It was all highly entertaining for this Duke antagonist. Yesterday the ACC suspended the officiating crew over their uncertain handling of the game’s ending. And now several armchair pundits are asking “Should there be a way to overturn Miami-Duke result?” or suggesting “The ACC needs to overturn Miami’s crazy, controversial win over Duke” or arguing the “Hurricanes should do the right thing and voluntarily forfeit.”

Funny thing is, if Miami had not scored on that final play, they would be the ones complaining about the refs giving the game away, perhaps even calling for the result to be overturned should a well-timed goal line iPhone photo of Duke’s questionable go-ahead TD emerge.

I’m not sure if a team can forfeit a game after it has been played or not. I know the NCAA has a rule that once a game has finished, there’s no going back and changing the outcome. All of it makes me think of the so-called “ocean” card in hold’em, a “sixth street” community card that players who miss their draws on the river wish for but never receive.

I’ve written here before about football having turned into a game of “do-overs and didn’t-counts.” The same is true of other aspects of our unrelentingly-litigious culture, where nothing ever seems to be final and a post-result appeal always seems to be an option.

I guess that’s one way of not being results oriented -- not acknowledging a result to be valid at all.

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