Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ambiguity and the Remarkable Ending to Seattle-Green Bay

UPDATE: The NFL has issued a lengthy statement on this situation that muddies rather than clarifies the issues. The NFL says that the joint possession situation should not have mattered because the officials missed an earlier infraction. Even so, the NFL says: "The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review." The NFL's judgement wouldn't be clouded by the ongoing referee dispute, would it?

This evidence seems pretty compelling to me:
Original post . . .

The remarkable ending of the NFL game last night between Seattle and Green Bay (shown above) is sure to prompt much discussion today. Note how one referee called the play an interception and the other a touchdown.

While I am not an NFL referee (though I may be qualified to be a replacement;-), I can not see any reason why that play was not called an interception. I don't see much ambiguity here based on my 40 years of watching NFL games. The Seattle player was clearly still establishing possession after the Green Bay player would have been judged down and the play over.

Mike Tirico, the ESPN announcer, says on the telecast that joint possession is not reviewable. If that is the case then this might qualify for one a rare "rules hole" occasionally found in sports competitions. I'd expect joint possession to be reviewable soon. [UPDATE: Joint possession is apparently not reviewable on the field of play but it is in the end zone. Details.]

All the excitement on the field aside, it is situations like this that help to explain the incentives for match fixing. USA Today reports:
The disputed call on the final pass into the end zone not only allowed Seattle to win the game but blew the Packers cover of the game. Green Bay came into the game as a 3-point favorite.

According to wagerminds.com, more than 70% of the wagers in Las Vegas last night were on Green Bay to cover. The website estimates that if the final call had been ruled an interception that the sportsbooks would have paide out $7.6 million to Packer backers and collected $3.6 million on those who bet Seattle.

Instead, the books only had to pay $3.2 million and kept the $8.4 million wagered on the Packers. So instead of absorbing a $4 million loss the Vegas books took in $5.1 million.
Too much ambiguity is no friend to professional sports.


Post a Comment