I was watching an NFL game the other day when I saw a wide receiver make an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone, run right through the end zone and leap into the stands to celebrate his touchdown. But, alas, when he was getting congratulatory back slaps, he dropped the football. After a five-minute review, the pass was called incomplete because he didn’t hold onto the football when he leaped into the stands. Of course, this is facetious and didn’t happen. But what really is happening in NFL games is almost as ludicrous and has made a difference in the outcome of games and even caused the Dallas Cowboys to get eliminated from the post-season playoffs a few seasons ago. Only last weekend he Pittsburgh Steelers were denied a touchdown when tight end Jesse James was robbed (that’s a switch) of a touchdown when he dove across the end line with his with his hands under the football and when he landed in the end zone, the ball dislodged and the touchdown was overruled because James “didn’t survive the ground.”  Because the play occurred in the final two minutes of the game, it was automatically reviewed. Although James landed on his knees and stretched for the goal line with the football in his grasp, this wasn’t ruled a touchdown, according to the article. “Under the letter of the rule, the ball fell to the ground when James lunged across the goal line,” the Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicle explained. After further review, the ruling was changed from a game-winning touchdown to an incomplete pass and the Steelers lost to New England 27-24 and also were eliminated from the home-field advantage for the entire upcoming playoffs because of that very questionable call. The Houston Chronicle commented that the officiating crew of that game “began implementing the rules in a way that’s been criticized as micromanaging and renewed talk of having the NFL competition committee address the rule in the off-season.” Steelers head coach and a member of the rules committee member Mike Tomlin commented in a conference call, “There’s just been too many controversial plays and plays worthy of continual discussion. We’ve got our work cut out for us in this off-season.” I believe several other rules should be scrutinized by the rules committee when it meets early next year, like making pass interference a 15-yard penalty like in high school and college, or half the distance to the goal if the ball is snapped inside the 30-yard line. Another play that gets my goat is when the ball is snapped on a crucial field goal attempt and the opposing coach calls a time out just before the kick is launched. This is referred to as “icing the kicker.” The time out should be called before the ball is snapped. Every year the rules committee promises it will do something to reduce the length of games, but then turns right around and reviews every questionable call. Each review lasts upward to five minutes which lengthens the games, especially in the final two minutes of the half. Another call that irks me is when a punt if heading for the end zone and a player leaps in the air and swats it AFTER it crosses the plane of the goal line, like in basketball. Every other situation involves the invisible plane of the goal line, EXCEPT on a punt. When there is a short-yardage situation either for a first down or a touchdown, about half-a-dozen teammates of the ball carrier get behind the play and start shoving the pile, sometimes resulting in a first down or touchdown. What happened to the rule about if the ball carrier’s forward motion stops, the play is over?? And last but not least, there needs to be more consistency about the roughing the passer rule. Some quarterbacks have to get crucified before a flag is thrown while others like Tom Brady and Drew Brees merely get their shirt brushed and a penalty is called. I guess writing a column like this on Christmas Day, griping about everything, gets one out the festive mood rather quickly. But that’s the way I feel. Happy New Year!! KWICKIES…West Orange-Stark Mustang fans started the Christmas weekend on a sad note as the team’s magnificent 40-game winning streak came to a halt Friday when undefeated Texarkana Pleasant Grove won the state championship with a 41-21 victory. It was the Mustangs’ fourth straight trip to the championship finals. And the score was not nearly as bad as the 20-point loss looked. Pleasant Grove scored two pick-six touchdowns in the final 30 seconds of the game. Those two desperation plays plus two defensive errors that led to two Hawks’ first period touchdowns were the difference. “They made plays and we didn’t,” commented Head Coach Cornel Thompson to the Fox announcers after the game. I got to visit with most of my family during the Christmas weekend. My only grandson, Logan Smith, came to Orange. He finished his plebe (first) year at West Point, was the only walk-on to make the Division I baseball team and went undefeated as a pitcher for the Black Knights. He had Tommy John surgery after the season and will still be recuperating during the 2018 season. I also got to see my only great-grandson, Robert John Kohler, who at five weeks is already wearing six-month outfits. He promises to be a star athlete in Anchorage where he will grow up. If you’re not already tired of bowl games, you probably will be at this time next week after watching 18 more games, some with very strange sponsor names. Going into the final week of the regular NFL season, all eight division titles have been claimed. There still are a couple of wild cards that need to be determined before the playoffs begin the first weekend of January 2018. JUST BETWEEN US…Those of us who checked the news on your computer or smart phone should have seen the piece about Orange’s Earl Thomas urging Dallas Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett to acquire him if he ever becomes available. Earl’s comment to Garrett came after his Seattle Seahawks upset the Dallas Cowboys 21-12 Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium and kept their slim playoff hopes alive after not allowing a Cowboy to cross the goal line. The 2017 Pro Bowl free safety commented “We had a great win. I feel like we played lights-out. Just emotional. I’ve always been a Cowboys fan growing up. But the biggest thing when I say ‘Come get me’ is, I don’t literally mean like, ‘Come get me now.’ I’m still in the prime of my career. I still want to be here, but when Seattle kicks me to the curb, please—the Cowboys—come get me.”

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