Black mark on CFL

The CFL’s director of officiating Tom Higgins said ‘Justice prevailed’ after the Blue Bombers...

The CFL’s director of officiating Tom Higgins said ‘Justice prevailed’ after the Blue Bombers failed to capitalize on a bad call by a line judge in last Friday’s loss to Montreal. (CHRIS PROCAYLO/QMI Agency file photo)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:03 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Publicly, Paul LaPolice doesn’t want to touch it.

We can only imagine what he’s saying when the microphones, notebooks and cameras aren’t around.

The head coach of the Blue Bombers was asked Tuesday about comments made by the CFL’s director of officiating, Tom Higgins, regarding Friday’s game against Montreal.

In case you haven’t heard, Higgins said it’s a good thing the Bombers didn’t score a touchdown on those last two plays from the Als one-yard line, because they shouldn’t have been there in the first place, due to that horrible pass interference call against Montreal.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Higgins told the Montreal Gazette of the brutal call. “There are football gods out there. The ball shouldn’t have been on the one-yard line. One play could have turned the game around. But justice prevailed in this case.”

Coach LaPo acknowledged he was surprised by the comment, but that’s all he’d say.

“I’ll let you or somebody else speak to that,” the coach said.

OK, I’ll be happy to.

What Higgins said represents the biggest hit to the CFL’s integrity I’ve seen since Ricky Williams flouted his NFL doping suspension to light it up north of the border.

Here’s the man in charge of officials, saying he’s glad one team won and another lost, all because he didn’t want a blown call deciding the outcome.

On its own, I suppose, you can see the rationale in that.

But given what happened during those last two plays, Higgins statement sends a disturbing message that could have ramifications far beyond one game.

Those last two plays, quarterback sneaks by Alex Brink, weren’t without their own controversy, the Bombers convinced they’d scored on the first one, perplexed how they’d killed the last second on the clock with the second.

There was even a perception the striped shirts might have realized the error of the pass interference call, and wanted to make it up to the Als.

That perception became future reality when Higgins opened his mouth.

Officials across the league have now heard their boss say they can make up for one bad call by making another against the other team.

For Higgins, two wrongs make a right.

As long as “justice” prevails, whatever that means.

“He probably shouldn’t have said that,” quarterback Buck Pierce told the Sun. “That’s a little strange, coming from Tom.”

The guy went even further, criticizing the Bombers for questioning the final two plays.

“You’ve got two shots,” Higgins said. “If you don’t make it in, don’t think it’s the clock operator or the officials on the field.”

Incredible.

Isn’t Higgins supposed to be the shining example of neutrality?

“He’s an impartial bystander that just wants the rules to be enforced fairly and accurately,” Bomber D-lineman Doug Brown said. “I was surprised ... it’s supposed to be arbitrary and clinical, almost, without any bias or regard for either team.”

Now, loyal readers of this space might recall I said justice was served after the game, that the Bombers didn’t deserve to win.

It’s one thing, though, for a sports columnist to write it, another entirely for the guy in charge of the whistle-blowers.

Higgins fired the official who made the bad pass interference call.

The guy who ruled the Bombers didn’t score a touchdown, we presume, got a bonus.

Bad calls happen all the time. Using Higgins’ logic, we can expect make-up calls equally as bad, from now on.

“I don’t know about that,” Pierce said. “I would hope not. There’s always been a lot of integrity in this league.”

Lately, there has.

But I can still remember darker days when it was hard to take the CFL seriously.

Tom Higgins is doing his best to drag us back.


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