Official version of fumbled play a muddled mess

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:47 AM ET

There's no replay of controversial calls in the Canadian Football League.

Well, at least not on the field during a game -- unless the officials are standing under a Jumbotron.

That hasn't stopped football people and fans from continuing to dissect the fumble/no-fumble call in the Renegades-Argonauts game which altered the momentum of the game and helped contribute to Toronto's victory.

Argos running back John Avery may or may not have fumbled the ball -- nobody is sure -- that Ottawa's Greg Moss picked up and ran into the end zone for an apparent touchdown.

As the play unfolded, no official made any call, but after Moss had scored, they simply decided after the fact that because none of them saw what happened, they should simply ignore what did happen.

CFL director of officiating George Black did little to clarify the issue with his sometimes contradictory explanation of the call on the Team 1200 the other day.

Black's explanation of plays ending "in the mind of the official" without a whistle and a sketchy rule about the ball reverting to the team that originally had possession on inconclusive plays only served to further muddle the issue.

The timing of such a controversy is damaging to the CFL because this was supposed to be the year when the league did something about its officiating, which had justifiably earned a reputation for being spectacularly incompetent.

Wednesday night's play did nothing to raise the comfort level of fans, players, coaches or media that on-field officials are in control of the game or know the rules.

We're not even talking about some weird play. This was a simple case of a ball being fumbled or not. It is hard to believe not one of the officials had anything close to an opinion on what had happened (which is pretty much what Black said).

Where were they looking?

Black's statements have made their way around the league and at least a couple of people are shaking their heads. One long-time coach, in an e-mail to the Sun, raised a number of interesting issues that bear revisiting.

"(Black) stated there is an 'unwritten' rule in the CFL that allows officials to reinstate possession of the ball to a team when the officials deem that a turnover play was 'inconclusive' so far as their ability to call the play," wrote the coach. "There will be a bunch of league people interested to know this.

CONFUSING STATEMENT

"I know the rule book and there is no rule which speaks of this type of possession change. There are rules which specifically and in great detail do talk about changes in possession."

The most confusing statement Black made was that not every play in the CFL ends with a whistle.

Huh? How do players know when a play is over then?

Black said that it is possible for a play to end only in an official's mind.

"That is a killer of a comment," wrote the coach. "What? I have been on the (bleeping) sideline for a lot of years ... every play which legally starts ends with a whistle. Let me ask you this question: How does the clock operator know when the play ends if it ends only in an official's mind, as George Black states? Does the clock operator also 'mentally' note at the same moment the field official mentally notes that the play ended?

"Because, if after their conference they decide to change the call and award the ball to the team that had it at the beginning of the play, what time would they put on the clock?"

Without the benefit of video replay -- which we're led to believe still doesn't exist in the CFL -- how would the officials know how much time to put back on the clock?

Guess?

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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