Much was made earlier this month when economists predicted a one to two percent increase in the Gross Domestic Product numbers due almost exclusively to Apple rolling out its new iPhone 5. Unfortunately, another technological advancement announced last week is going to offset that expected growth in productivity. I'm talking about Time Warner Cable adding the NFL Network to its sports package. Now millions of men wil have access to 24/7/365 coverage of the National Football Leauge--including injury updates, fantasy football projections, replays of all of last Sunday's games in there entirety, and of course the classic NFL Films library. And the best part, unlike ESPN, NFL Network actually features coverage of teams other than the New England Patriots and whatever team Tim Tebow plays for.
Speaking of the NFL, sports fans got a glimpse of the future of the game Sunday during the Saints-Chiefs matchup at the SuperDome. A Saints player made a diving catch of a pass, got up and ran into the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown. The officials (yes, I know, replacement refs, if I never hear that term again it will be the happiest day of my life) made absolutely no call. No signal of a good catch and a touchdown. No signal of a good catch but down by contact. No signal of an incomplete pass. Just seven guys in striped shirts looking at each other like "I didn't make a call, did you make a call?" Under a new rule in the NFL this year, all scoring plays are automatically reviewed by replay--so the ref just announced "The previous play is under review" and ran off to take a look under the hood.
And that is probably going to just be the procedure in the future. No need for the officials to make a call on a close, controversial call. We'll just go to replay automatically. The refs will have a new hand signal for such instances. They can all just extend their arms by their sides--palms up--in the classic "I have no idea what just happened" pose. Then its time to watch the replay and make a call.
And when you watch the Packers game tonight, look for guys on each sideline in NFL caps and jackets with headsets on. These "mystery men" will be shown talking to the refs after controversial plays--then going over to talk to (or be yelled at) by both of the coaches. The league isn't letting us know who these guys are, but based on what you see on TV, they must be the "Replacement Ref Explainers". They are the go between between league officials watching the games on TV back in New York or up in one of the boxes at the stadium--relaying to the new guys correct application of NFL rules, spotting of the ball and even if a call needs to be reversed--without actually costing a team a replay challenge on obviously blown calls.
And while Twitter blows up after every one of these debacles, and coaches throw down their headsets, and fans boo every poorly explained call--the ratings continue to climb for the NFL. And Roger Goodell realizes that they can put any product he wants on the field--so long as people can bet on it--or play fantasy games with it.