You can’t let NFL refs ‘feel’

Tony Corrente really blew it calling taunting against Cassius Marsh.

Tony Corrente really blew it calling taunting against Cassius Marsh.
Image: Getty Images

Generally, I think it’s loser shit to blame the refs or bad calls for a loss. There’s almost always a chance to overcome them, and either you’re good enough or you’re not. I’m not even salty as a Bears fan about losing to the Steelers, 29-27, due to a couple of horrible calls, because in the grand scheme of things the Bears winning or losing doesn’t really matter this season. What matters is Justin Fields had that second half, and maybe, just maybe, there’s a future for all of us blue-and-orange clad dopes who have flushed a couple decades down the toilet with this criminally stupid franchise run by the bewildered and braindead.


But there are some things that feel like they could harm more games down the line, far more important ones than two bad teams hurling themselves at each other with no plan or direction (yes, Steelers fans, your team is bad, and you know it). Refs miss calls that are clearly spelled out, like the chop block call on James Daniels that wrongly chalked off a Bears TD. That’s just a mistake, but that happens.

It’s the taunting call on Cassius Marsh that will dominate the headlines, because the taunting calls have been among the lead stories on NFL games all year. Again, this rule stems from John Mara apparently being afraid of Black people. Let’s not couch it or try to put it in a more comfortable language. That’s all this is. Fear that two Black players jawing will result in a fight every time, or that it’ll send some sort of bad message to kids, or something that you always hear from older white people.

Here was Tony Corrente’s explanation, and it’s just utter horseshit.

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Again, the big word there is “felt.” Because Corrente wasn’t in any position to hear anything Marsh was saying, if he was saying anything at all, which Corrente couldn’t determine. And what Corrente thinks is “posturing” may not be to the next ref in a similar position. We see this kind of staredown on a sideline every game. How can we get any consistency in the rules this way?

It wouldn’t be so hard to spell out that taunting only happens when words are clearly heard and clearly seen directed at another player that’s within five feet or whatever distance the league wants to make it. You have to take the interpretation out of it, because refs in all sports have proven time and again they’re pretty shit at determining intent. Look at how much Corrente had to stretch here to feel this qualified for a flag.


What makes it even more bizarre is that Corrente doesn’t throw his flag until he intentionally, at least it looks like it, bumps into Marsh:


Before the bump, in baseball they would call this “having the rabbit ears up.” You know it when you see a home plate ump take off his mask and stare down a pitcher or batter simply as they pass by. They’re daring a player to say something, practically begging for them to, so they can get the opportunity to throw them out. They’re making themselves the center of the game. Which is the exact opposite of what an official is supposed to do.

Corrente is staring down Marsh before this, looking for any excuse to throw a flag. Even seems to try to initiate contact to get it. It’s one thing to crack down on something when it happens, such as the NHL this year with cross-checking. It’s another to send out refs and officials to specifically look for something, which they’re going to find because they want to.


What Corrente, or his bosses like Mara, will tell you is that making calls like this at crucial times in nationally televised games will make it clear to all players how serious they are about cracking down on….whatever it is Corrente thought Marsh was doing. And I guess that’s right. But what is the real reward here? Also, anyone who executes a near inch-perfect David Lee Roth karate kick in celebration should be given leeway, in my humble opinion.

There’s going to be a call like this that swings a late-season game or a playoff game. And what will the NFL have gained? Will John Mara feel safer? That’s really all it feels like this was intended to do, placating some owner who is three days older than water — and I suppose all the fans who are of Mara’s age — about a generation he doesn’t understand. Y’know, the ones who said they’d never watch after Colin Karpernick took a knee and yet the NFL seems to keep bending rules toward their tastes. Funny how that works. Is it really worth it?

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