IT HAS been said that officials do a good job when nobody notices them. For better or worse, the guys in the striped shirts have been noticeable by their calls this year in the Canadian Football League. Whether penalizing players for removing their helmets on the field -- which is strictly verboten after two incidents last year in which the officials were hit by flying headgear -- or dress-code violations for failing to cover equipment that is not sanctioned by the league, the officials have been vigilant in assessing infractions.
But what happened in the game two nights ago between the Argonauts and Ottawa Renegades bordered on ridiculous. A total of 34 penalties amounting to 322 yards -- the equivalent of almost three fields -- ruined the game, which Ottawa won 20-10. Whether all of the calls were accurate or justified can be debated, but they simply killed the game's pace and momentum.
The Argos suffered more than the Renegades, charged with a franchise-record 21 penalties for 192 yards. During the first half alone, the Argos received 16 penalties for 177 yards.
ATTEMPT AT HUMOUR
The only person more frustrated than Argos coach Pinball Clemons, who tossed a towel in disgust on the sidelines, was the stadium announcer who repeatedly said: "Another flag on the play."
At one point he decided to have some fun by announcing: "With all the flags we're getting an early start on Canada Day."
On the Argos' first series, a 34-yard touchdown reception by Tony Miles was negated on an offside infraction. Although it was announced wideout Robert Baker committed the foul, the official stats sheet listed Miles as the culprit.
TSN, which aired the game, showed definitively -- by use of the telestrator -- that Miles wasn't offside. Unlike the National Football League, there is no system in place for teams to challenge an official's call, although it doesn't apply to an offside call anyway.
The officials flagged Argos linebacker Mike Fletcher twice in the first half for allegedly engaging in rough stuff with Ottawa quarterback Kerry Joseph. It was Fletcher's viewpoint that Joseph mugged him and not the other way around.
Joseph even admitted he had tussled with Fletcher on one play for a "cheap shot" when he didn't have the ball. Both players received objectionable conduct penalties.
"Everybody has their side (of the story), but as we went on, we patted each other up," Joseph said. "It was a football game. Things happen, emotions fly around. We knew it was a big game, but you let it go and move on. He hit me, I got up and pushed him back. It's over with. We both move on. It's no big thing."
In the second half, the officials didn't call as many penalties. The Argos received five penalties for only 15 yards, while Ottawa received five penalties for 45 yards, the last one a deliberate timecount violation in the final minute. Whether by design or not, the players were allowed to play.
Ironically, Ottawa coach Joe Paopao addressed his team about taking needless penalties leading up to the game after the Renegades committed some crimes in their previous outing, a 37-25 win in Winnipeg.
The rash of penalties took away from the latest accomplishment by the Renegades, who did not allow a touchdown for the first time since the franchise was reborn two years ago. The Renegades emerged from the ashes of the hapless Rough Riders and are worthy of respect for the inroads they've made, but their latest achievement came in a game mired by too many penalties.
Penalties are part of the game, but when too many of them are called it takes away from the game.