The Couch Slouch

Reviewing an old problem: NFL replay remains a joke

Reviewing an old problem: NFL replay remains a joke
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Al Riveron

Note to Readers: The bad news? This will be my 38th column on replay since 1986. The good news? When I get to my 40th, I will retire to an elder care facility in suburban Monte Carlo that has eight bowling lanes, two air hockey tables and a vending machine that sells Bugles.

To be fair, replay as an officiating tool remains only the fifth-worst global problem, behind climate change, world hunger, the decline of American exceptionalism and the inability to find anything you like when clothes shopping.

It is an endless procession of did-he-or-didn't-he moments to examine:

Did he cross the goal line? Are his feet in or out on the sideline? Did he maintain possession through the process of the catch? Did his knee hit the ground before he fumbled? Did the ball hit the ground after he caught it? Was the quarterback's arm going forward?

My goodness, President Trump won't even release his tax returns – how can we be reviewing THIS RUBBISH?

This remains a rabbit hole from which we can never dig out.

Life is always better when you just let it happen. We shouldn't take photos of our food when it's served, we shouldn't analyze sunsets and waterfalls, we shouldn't review where the official spots the ball on a third-and-six completion that goes for 5¾ yards.

The NFL put in a replay rule change this season to deal with exactly what transpired in New Orleans a weekend ago – the last play of a postseason game, on a decisive touchdown in which an apparent offensive pass interference went uncalled, and they did not even review it.

That's like installing a metal detector at a nightclub and letting "Wild Bill" Hickock walk through the front door without turning it on.

It was such an obvious push-off by Kyle Rudolph, it shoved me off my own sofa.

By the way, if they had overturned it, what a mess. You have this dramatic, overtime-ending touchdown pass. You have half the Minnesota Vikings streaming across the field with helmets off to celebrate with Rudolph, and the other half sprinting into the locker room. And then, several minutes later, you have The Eye in the Sky bellowing:

"Offensive pass interference. No touchdown. Players, please return to the huddle. Fans, please return to your seats."

And who would determine this? NFL officiating czar Al Riveron.

Al Riveron? Who is this guy? He has more power than a Supreme Court justice and is more mysterious than The Man in the Iron Mask. Remember in "The Wizard of Oz," the Wizard was just some small chap behind a curtain? Well, Riveron is just some middle-aged fella on a Park Avenue BarcaLounger watching a bank of screens while guzzling Bud Light with clicker in hand.

He decides the fate of all NFL games?

This is insanity.

Just play the game, make the calls, move on.

You're cooking a three-egg omelette. You drop one of the eggs. You just get another egg out of the fridge and call Daisy in to lick the yolk off the kitchen floor. No replay.

Play the game, make the calls, move on.

You're bowling. Your buddy may or may not be going over the foul line when releasing the ball. So what? You buy him another Yuengling and a corn dog. No replay.

Play the game, make the calls, move on.

You have a fender bender on the 405. You yell for a bit, argue briefly with the other motorist, then exchange insurance information and get back into the car. No replay.

Play the game, make the calls, move on.

You are married. Then you go to family court, and you are no longer married. Do you make a big stink about it? Negative. You go home, you lick your wounds, you get back on the Tinder horse. No replay.

Play the game, make the calls, move on.

I am constantly told: The genie is out of the bottle, there is no going back. Really? Why not? This genie is unsightly, unworthy and unneeded. Costco lets you return any merchandise for any reason – what, we can't stuff this demonic spirit back into the decanter and send it out to sea?

I'd watch that replay again and again.

Ask the Slouch

Q. The Los Angeles Dodgers signed pitcher Jimmy Nelson to a one-year $1.25 million contract, with as much as $13 million (!) in incentives if he lasts two years. What incentives did you offer Toni for your marriage to last this long? (Jim Tise; Bethesda, Md.)

A. Every time Toni makes it six months, I promised her she would not have to speak to me for the next six months.

Q. I learned that "Bachelor" star Jade Roper Tolbert "won" $1 million on DraftKings' Millionaire Maker daily fantasy contest, and "may" have "colluded" with her husband Tanner on their 300 combined entries. I really don't have a question. (Mitchell Shapiro; Rockville, Md.)

A. I really don't have an answer then. P.S. No question, no 10 bits.

Q. Is it true that Queen Elizabeth plans to use the franchise tag to keep Prince Harry? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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