This week: Officiating woes, auto racing and golf rules

Alternately, I was shocked, held my breath and then had to laugh. It was that kind of week in the world of sports. Let’s take a look.

Packers-Lions. I watched with interest the Monday Night NFL game. There was no favorite team to root for, so the winner of the game meant little to me. I was much more interested in seeing Matthew Stafford get me points for my fantasy league than who was going to come out on top.

As I watched, though, the topic of NFL officiating came to mind. It has been a tough year for the zebras and this game didn’t do anything to eliminate the bad feelings that many have for the state of officiating.

The game was a good one, but late in the game I had the feeling the Lions were not getting a break on both calls and non-calls. The two hands-to-the-face penalties on Lion defensive end Trey Flowers were key calls and presumably bad ones. The non-interference call on Lions receiver Marvin Jones II was big as well.

I’m not one to harp on officials for two reasons. One: the job is incredibly difficult and getting everything right is virtually impossible. Two: replays show that officials are right far more often than they are wrong. I can understand how the officials thought Flowers was guilty of the penalty. I couldn’t understand why the Lions didn’t challenge the non-call, at least until…

Did you know that NFL head coaches have been told that unless it is a complete mugging, they shouldn’t challenge non-pass interference calls because they won’t be changed? Seriously? Why was the new rule passed if it is not going to be enforced?

That information was a little shocking to me, but I was more shocked later when I read a proposal that NFL owners have considered. It’s known as the “eye in the sky” and the writer suggested it was time to implement it. The concept is to have an official in the booth who can buzz down to make or overturn a call when he sees fit. Is this a crazy idea or what? I know that the idea is to get the call (or non-call) right, but can you imagine how long a game could take if this is used!

No thanks. Enough flags are thrown as it is.

Talladega. I really enjoy watching NASCAR racing, whether it’s at the track or on TV. The superspeedways bring high speed, edge-of-your-seat excitement. Cars are bumper to bumper, racing at speeds of near 200 MPH, frequently in rows of three. The question is not IF the big one will happen, but WHEN. I suppose you could add how often!

When the mistake is made and the first car gets sideways, I hold my breath, and I’m just watching from the safety of my couch! Makes one wonder what the drivers are thinking? Some of the most horrific accidents in racing have taken place at Talladega and this week was no different.

Do you suppose Brendan Gaughan was holding his breath when his car flipped over on Monday afternoon? If he wasn’t, I bet his relatives were. How those guys strap in each and every week really amazes me.

There must be a safer way to make a living!

A 58 in golf. OK, this is not what you think. If someone shot a 58 on one of the pro tours, that would be big news. This 58 is a little unusual. It took place at the LPGA Senior Open at French Lick, Indiana.

Lee Ann Walker had not played on tour in a decade. She shot an 85 in the first round, or so she thought. After the fifth hole in the second round, she realized that she had been breaking the rules.

A new rule, adopted since she last played, made it illegal for a caddy to line up a shot for his or her player. Apparently, she did not know about the rule change. Her caddy must not have, either. Things became really bizarre after completion of the second round. She was told that each time her caddy helped her line up a putt was a two-stroke penalty. She then was asked to count up the violations and add them to her score.

She decided that she had 21 violations in round one and eight more in the second round before realizing that she couldn’t use the additional help. That would be 29 violations adding an additional 58 strokes to her two day total. Instead of shooting an 85 in the first round, she carded a 127. Her second day effort of 74 was adjusted to 90.

Her total caused her to miss the cut by 59 shots. You have to laugh about it, though it does bring up some questions. How did no one realize the rule was being broken for some 25 holes? The golfer, her playing partners and rules officials were not aware of this? Why would the penalties not be administered after the first round?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. Maybe someone else does. There is a silver lining of sorts for Ms. Walker. Had the penalty strokes not been administered she still would have missed the cut. But by a single stroke!

Maybe the silver lining is that she doesn’t have to go back through the two rounds to try to find the one shot that would have meant all the difference in the world.

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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