Latest blown calls needs to be the impetus for change

The CFL once again admitted they blew a crucial call. Two, in fact, and they played a significant role in the Ticats losing Sunday’s East Semi-Final to the Edmonton Eskimos.

Let’s set the scene. After a 17-yard completion to Terrence Toliver, Hamilton’s Brandon Revenberg was called for holding. The CFL has admitted that was an incorrect call. On the play, Edmonton’s Odell Willis nails Ticats QB Zach Collaros late, but the refs miss it. No biggie, the Ticats have a challenge and they use it. The command centre reviews is and comes back with a verdict that there was no roughing the passer on the play. I saw Jeff Mathews react when Andre Proulx made the call. He was shocked, as were the 24,000+ in attendance at Tim Hortons Field. They were right to be shocked, because the league admitted that, too, was the wrong call.

So two bad calls and instead of Hamilton having a first-and-10 from their own 52 with about 90 seconds left, they were forced to scrimmage second-and-14 from their own 10. On the very next play after the blown calls, Zach Collaros throws the interception that set Edmonton up for a game-winning field goal. If things go the way they should have, the Ticats probably win the game on Sunday.

Yes, I’m saying it. The blown call played a significant role in Hamilton’s defeat at the hands of the Eskimos. You can argue about what came before or after, but in that moment, had things gone correctly, the Tiger-Cats are likely the team prepping for the Ottawa Redblacks this week, not Edmonton.

For the league to say the blown calls didn’t impact the outcome of the game is laughable. It impacted everything. First-and-10 from your own 52 with 90-odd seconds left is a lot different than second-and-14 from your own 10. It impacts the play calling, a player’s execution, their decision making. It impacts everything. Heck, the Ticats might not have needed to get another yard to have the shot at the winning points. Brett Maher had kicked an 86-yard single just minutes before to tie the game. That kick came from the 35 and got deep into the end zone. From closer, he may have been able to boot it out of the end zone for the win. Instead, the Eskimos won and the Ticats were robbed. Again.

This isn’t the first time the Ticats were hosed in an important game. Last month, when they still very much had a chance to claim first in the East, the command reviewed a catch by Ottawa’s Greg Ellingson and ruled that it was an incomplete pass, not a catch and fumble. The CFL admitted that was incorrect, it was a catch and fumble recovered by the Ticats. Ottawa would kick their winning points later on the drive.

So in two of the biggest games of the year for the Ticats, command centre errors have cost them. They aren’t the only team to get hosed by officials or the command centre. There was Gate-gate earlier this year that confused everyone, and who can forget the Andrew Harris non-fumble fiasco in a late-season, and very important, B.C.-Winnipeg game.

In both of Hamilton’s instance it was the same replay official, Jeff Harbin, who made the wrong calls.

Fans, obviously, are furious, and are calling for Harbin’s head (one even set up a petition to get him fired) but fans aren’t the only ones upset. A few Ticats players took to social media soon after the news came out and as you can see, they are not happy.

Watt’s comments are particularly salient. Players’ and coaches’ livelihoods ride on the outcomes of these games. There are players who played in Sunday’s East Semi-Final who will never play another down of professional football. Coaches get fired over wins and losses. But where is the accountability for referees or, more importantly, the replay officials in the command centre?

What’s done is done and you can’t change it, but this needs to be the last straw. The CFL has a problem and it is a problem they need to fix. A playoff game has now been decided by an admitted blown call — two, in fact, but I, personally, can live with an officiating error on the field; those happen and are part of the game — and if that is not a wake-up call to the league, nothing will be.

There are a number of solutions that will be debated during the offseason, but something has got to change. Maybe it is as simple as leaving the calls in the hands of vice president of football Glen Johnson. He is the guy who has to issue these statements after the fact, so perhaps him and his decades of refereeing experience needs to be more hands on.

There is no perfect solution, but the current system is clearly broken and needs to be fixed. On-field errors occur, and I think most can live with them. I know I can. That is why the bad call on Revenberg doesn’t bother me as much as the missed late hit by Willis. Replay needs to be perfect. Period. Is that an unfair standard to hold them to? Maybe, but I refuse to hold them to anything less. Like teachers or police officers, we know they can make mistakes, but if they do they get more heavily scrutinized than a garbage man or a stock boy at Walmart. Authority figures are always held to a higher standard than common folk; it is just a part of the job.

Hopefully it doesn’t take the league being embarrassed on their biggest stage for change to come. This latest admission of failure needs to the impetus for real change this offseason.

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