The NFL’s commitment to conduct replay review on all turnovers, scoring plays, and plays occurring in the final two minutes of either half or during overtime comes with an intriguing caveat that, while never relevant to the outcome of a game, could be relevant to those who use the games as a vehicle for making or losing money.
In his weekly officiating video, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino explains that the replay official did not call for a review of a diving end-zone interception by Steelers linebacker James Harrison late in Monday nights game at Washington because a reversal would not have affected the victory. With Pittsburgh leading 38-16 and 16 seconds left, it simply wouldn’t have mattered if the interception had been wiped off the books. (Blandino nevertheless believes the pass was “probably” incomplete.)
“There’s no competitive impact on the outcome of the game due to this play, and the replay official has that discretion,” Blandino says. “If this is a one-score game, absolutely we’re going to stop the game. But here, with the score 38-16 and it’s not an obvious mistake, the replay official can let this go because it’s not going to impact the outcome of the game.”
That’s fine, but what if the team that’s driving the ball with 16 second lefts if down by 14 in a game where it’s an eight-point underdog? Allowing the interception to stand if it really wasn’t an interception would artificially eliminate the offense’s chance of covering the spread.
That’s another reason why the NFL continues to oppose further legalization of gambling. If betting on games is legitimized, an exercise of discretion by the replay official not to call for a full-blown review late in a game where the outcome of the wagers could change would trigger complaints and criticism and scrutiny and cries for more/any governmental regulation of a sport that stubbornly insists on policing itself.
Indeed, eight years ago an error that wiped a late defensive score by former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu off the books didn’t change the outcome of the game but kept the Steelers from covering — and reportedly took $64 million away from those who had taken the Steelers and given the points. If that money had been legally wagered, fans, media, and politicians would have demanded an investigation and accountability and other things the league would prefer not to have to worry about.