Cousin Sal Emerges As Voice of Reason on the NFL Referee Situation

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Make no mistake, the officiating crew in the NFC and AFC Championship Games did not cover themselves with glory. There were several suspect calls and definitely some pivotal stuff they adjudicated incorrectly given hindsight and access to myriad slow-motion replays. Your mileage may vary, but it also seemed to me that the real-time discourse hit a new low yesterday as most people seemed more interested in extensively litigating the rapid-replay review process and moaning about perceived grave injustices happening on the field. When they weren't clamoring to use a microchip in the football without considering that there are no microchips in players' bodies to cross-reference. Or pining for even more stoppages and reviews to prolong the game and make every play something that can't either be celebrated or bemoaned until all relevant records are subpeoned.

So it was nice to have Cousin Sal provide a much-needed reality check on today's Bill Simmons Podcast (7:50 mark):

"You know, I listen to podcasts on my network and other podcasts, I feel like it's 60 percent complaining about the refs. Isn't it bad in every single sport. Like isn't everything very, very close? We'll talk about that first game with Devonta Smith and that catch. And you, to your credit, were the only one who saw that that hit the ground but the first two replays saw that it didn't and everyone's like, 'what are the refs doing'? Well, we saw it in slow-motion and didn't think it hit the ground. I know they're getting paid, but after replay when we're not sure? I don't know, it just seems like there's a lot of wasted energy on the refs when the Niners weren't winning that game anyway and the Bengals, like I said, had the ball with two and a half minutes left."

He couldn't be more right. And it's a shame that saying rational things like this is frowned upon as it's not respected as the spicy content needed to stand out in an incredibly saturated field.

The most deserving team won both times. Devonta Smith's catch that wasn't really a catch was huge early but didn't ultimately matter and could have been resolved if Kyle Shanahan would have simply thrown a red flag. It's a bitter pill for Cincinnati to swallow that Joseph Ossai's late-hit penalty put Harrison Butker in position for the game-winning kick yet it's getting called every single time.

Controversy can be ginned up if a person tries hard enough. Outrage is in no short supply. Yet what happened yesterday was just kind of ... sports? There were some iffy calls yet on balance they didn't dramatically swing things in either direction. That happens every time!

There are three options. The first and most unproductive is to bitch and moan about it without ever accepting that's just the way things go. The second is to find peace and realize human beings aren't going to shoot 100 percent officiating a sport played by the largest, fastest athletes on Earth. The third is to crusade for even more machines and prolonged replays. Which, you know what, God bless if that's what you want. Just be careful what you ask for because that will do nothing but dull the overall experience.