In tonight’s CFL Western Conference Final between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Calgary Stampeders my Eskimos appeared to have given themselves some breathing room heading into the final frame. Calgary running back Jerome Messam had the ball forced out of his hands and it was recovered by Deon Lacey. He broke a tackle himself before running 47 yards for a quick 6 points and a presumed 37-17 lead. However, during Lacey’s run several blasts of a whistle could be heard as an official tried to stop the play dead. This happened well after the recovery where it played no part in the Stampeders giving up on the play. Lacey was already home free and on his way to the end zone. He even celebrated by blasting the ball into the stands with his foot before he was informed the play was under video review. After a looooooong discussion between the officials it was deemed they ruled Messam down by contact. They then tried to get the “command centre” to review the decision only to have the official announce the command centre isn’t allowed to review the play because the whistle was blown, defaulting it to the original call on the field. The Eskimos were then finally allowed to throw a coach’s challenge flag, where it was finally figured out the call on the field was wrong. Messam was not even close to down by contact which is as plain as day on the video. The officials made a mistake and that happens. As mentioned in I think that should still be part of the game on opinion related matters. This was a black and white “where was the ball when the player hit the ground” review and they ended up getting it right. This was a clear victory for video review. Except that instead of a touchdown, Edmonton was only rewarded with possession of the ball where the turnover took place.
In this case there was no scramble for the ball. It went almost directly from Messam’s hands into Lacey’s. The Stampeders didn’t quit on the play and tried to tackle Lacey before he broke free. Lacey completed the play and scored the touchdown so there’s no question this is how things would have turned out regardless of the whistle being blown. The rule of automatically only giving possession of the ball and forgetting everything that happened after the botched call should be looked at just for situations like this. I think back to this year’s MLB playoffs. In a well documented Blue Jays/Rangers first round deciding game, Rougned Odor scored when Russel Martin’s toss back to the pitcher’s mound struck the bat of Shin-Soo Choo who was waiting in the batter’s box. The umpire stopped the play immediately and called time, but Odor kept on running to touch the plate and then waited. After the umpires ruled themselves wrong and realized the play should have stayed alive, they awarded the run. If Odor hadn’t touched the plate they wouldn’t have given him the run. So what’s the difference in this case? If Lacey had shut it down on the whistle and never finished the run, sure you don’t give him anything because there’s nothing to give. But if there’s solid proof he would have scored but for the error of the officials then I think you have to award the points. Instead, the rule is to forget everything that happened once the mistake was made. They don’t forget everything though. To add extra insult, Lacey was docked with a 10 yard penalty for objectionable conduct for his celebratory punt into the crowd.
Verdict: if a mistake by an official costs a team points that they clearly show would have been scored but not for the official error, those points need to be awarded.