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"I'm Struggling With It. I Feel So Bad I Missed That Call, It's Driving Me Crazy."

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Scroll down for a mini-roundtable question, in bold

So says replay official Gordon Riese, one of the perpetrators of a call so bad Saturday even the Associated Press has dropped all qualifiers when it writes "Oregon's recovery of the onside kick should have been disallowed because the Ducks touched the ball before it went the required 10 yards." Not "maybe," "apparently," "some thought," "Oklahoma players and coaches argued," but straight up "it should have been disallowed." This doesn't even delve into how it was missedby everyone - TV included - that the Sooners evidently recovered the ball and were walking around with it, even as officials were signalling Oregon possession over a pigskin-less pileup.

Riese, as evidenced by his anguish, clearly agrees, having been granted a leave of absence by PAC Ten Commissioner Tom Hansen - the same Tom Hansen who legitimized the unequivocal declaration of incompetence by officially apologizing to Oklahoma and suspending the entire officiating crew, including Riese, for one week. For that honesty subversion, he's the target of revolt by jilted West Coasties who think of Oregon's win as a perfectly good one.

SMQ thinks there's a lot of merit to the criticism of Hansen, who was trying to maintain his league's integrity by admitting what any fool with a minute to learn the rules could plainly see - that Oregon touched the kick prior to its going ten yards, and, upon much further review, that Oklahoma apparently recovered the ball - but instead undermined his officials' necessary authority.

The roles and legitimacy of power in this case are intriguing to SMQ, who - like many, if not most, fans, he suspects - has had violent daydreams involving football zebras. Hansen is in a serious Catch-22 in that regard. On the right, the responsible reply seemingly would have been to say: "Officiating mistakes are made in every game, some of them more serious than others, some of which have an effect on the outcome of the game. None of them, however, are decisive. Saturday's game, like all games, was ultimately decided by the players on the field. Officials are charged with regulating the play according to the rules, and are reviewed by the league and the league's coaches. Their judgment must be respected and is final." Otherwise, if the officials - like the police in society at large - can't operate without any disagreement having the potential to erupt into retributive hand-wringing, apologies, suspension, and, worst, ambiguous or disputed outcomes, you have something resembling anarchy.

This is the perspective, at least, of Bob Rickert at the Oregon Live Ducks blog, who wants apologies from the league on the Ducks' behalf for:

...the pathetic non-call that allowed a pushoff on Walter Thurmond for a touchdown.

For allowing that play to go off in the first place, then for not calling the pushoff on Malcom Kelly against Walter Thurmond.

For not reviewing the supposed fumble by Jonathan Stewart.

For giving Peterson two extra yards on a spot that created a goal-line defensive situation for the Ducks which Peterson took in for the score. (See, the calls work both ways don't they?)

Where's Oregon's apology?

Rickert's heavy-handed sarcasm, in a week overflowing with heavy-handed sarcasm (and death threats!) at his space serves well his point, which is: life ain't fair. Deal. This cliché is always, always true, especially when it comes with the understanding we're all more or less equally jilted in the long run.


The history of mankind is one full of bitter and absurd cruelties.

Returning to Hansen's dilemma, which is - given the assumption of the "respected and final" doctrine often bemoaned but universally adhered to - what to do when the officials' inviolable judgment is wrong, as it so obviously was Saturday? All authority must have oversight, as well, to avoid inevitable abuse, and a suspension for egregious error with evidence is a good way to enforce competence and equity. Yet it comes at the expense of the notion of a fairly played game, it "taints" a victory, delineates one call, one play in dozens and dozens as singly responsible for a loss, and most of all sets a precedent for further pleas from aggrieved programs for similar discipline to legitimize their respective plight; certainly every fan of every team longs for closure over at least one game, one horrible moment of incomprehensible injustice that wounded the soul's innocence, that he still feels after years, decades, of smoldering agony, deserves a sincere and official apology, merely as recognition of discrimination.

For obvious reasons, this cannot be so. As kind of an impromptu roundtable, though, SMQ asks readers: what gridiron memory sears you so deeply, down to your appropriately-colored veins, that a simple acknowledgement, a "sorry" from the proper source - even if it didn't change the outcome - would lift a burden and cleanse a scarred corner of the soul? What injustice do you still carry, and want officially recognized?

Players can't apologize for bad plays (USM fans are still waiting for a "Sorry" note from Jeff Kelly for fumbling away a snap deep in his own territory immediately following a late, dramatic fourth-and-inches stop by the defense to - temporarily - preserve a slim lead at Louisville in 2001); it must be injustice, real or perceived, perpetrated by the judgment of an official (that definition is left intentionally ambiguous). Leave an answer in the comments, or a link if you post on your own site.

As for Riese, SMQ is unfortunately reminded of the veteran high school ref profiled a few years back in Sports Illustrated, who, preparing to officiate his first state championship, was taken off the crew for blowing a crucial one-foot-in call on an end zone catch in the semifinal and subsequently tried to commit suicide. Hopefully, Riese - already harassed enough by deranged threats to his family - nor his disgraced compatriots will take his weekend job as seriously.