The NFL’s incompetent handle on pass interference challenges is one of the biggest sports stories of the year.
A rule intended to correct game-changing wrongs on the field has generally made bad situations worse as the NFL officiating office has delivered no semblance of consistency in how it judges pass interference reviews, leaving coaches to gamble every time they throw a red flag, even on calls that are obvious to millions of fans watching at home.
NBA’s botching replay too
Lost in this shuffle of sports news is that the NBA is experiencing almost the exact same thing. The league has implemented coach’s challenges for the first time this season.
And rather than righting wrongs, the rule change has more often than not been a source of frustration and headaches for coaches initiating challenges.
Brad Stevens ‘done with these f---ing challenges’
Brad Stevens provided the latest example. As NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman pointed out, the generally genteel Boston Celtics head coach lost his cool with officials during Sunday’s win over the New York Knicks.
And this involved a challenge that he won — kind of.
With 1:09 remaining, Knicks forward Julius Randle backed into Celtics forward Grant Williams in the high post, knocking him to the floor and drawing a blocking foul.
Williams had established his position outside the restricted area and didn’t move his feet as Randle swung his right elbow into his body. It was an obvious charge.
With time winding down and Boston holding a nine-point lead, Stevens decided to challenge the potential momentum-swinging call that gave Randle a chance for a three-point play after he made the basket.
Officials reviewed the play and agreed that Williams was wrongly called for a blocking foul. What they didn’t acknowledge was the clear charge by Randle, ruling that there was no foul on the play. Randle wasn’t awarded a free throw, but his bucket still counted.
This left Stevens flummoxed. Video showed Stevens pleading with referee Josh Tiven before giving up and appearing to say “I’m done with these f---ing challenges. This is unbelievable.”
Stevens isn’t the only one peeved
Stevens isn’t the first to be frustrated with officials’ response to coaching challenges. Doc Rivers has regularly complained about how challenges are implemented, like this blatant flop from Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe being upheld as an offensive foul during a November Bucks-Clippers game.
In this case, video evidence showed an obvious instance that should have been overturned. Nobody watching could reasonably argue that Bledsoe wasn’t feigning contact on the play.
Coaches are right to be mad
And that seems to be a fairly simple standard. When there’s an obvious wrong on a call, make it right. Otherwise, why do challenges exist to begin with?
But the NBA, like the NFL, doesn’t seem capable of meeting that most base, reasonable standard.
And until either league manages to figure that part out, coaches, players and fans will rightfully question the integrity of their respective games.
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