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Super Bowl showed why instant replay rule is broken

Super Bowl showed why instant replay rule is broken

The NFL didn’t have a catch rule controversy with the Eagles at the Super Bowl. It had an instant replay controversy.

That’s partly the NFL’s own fault. The league abused instant replay, relying too heavily on an otherwise acceptable means for getting calls right on the field. To be frank, the system is broken because NFL officiating hasn’t followed its own rules with regard to replay.

In order to change the call on the field, there is supposed to be clear and indisputable visual evidence the wrong call was made in the first place.

There wasn’t clear or indisputable visual evidence to overturn either Corey Clement’s or Zach Ertz’s touchdowns. That much was obvious because Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth couldn’t even come to a conclusion among themselves.

I don’t believe for one second that Michaels and Collinsworth were actively rooting against the Eagles or for the Patriots during NBC’s broadcast of the Super Bowl. I just think the announcers were confused about how replay is supposed to work as they railed on about the likelihood the Eagles’ last two touchdowns would be overturned.

Take Clement’s grab at the back of the end zone, for example. There was definitely a bobble. It was replay-worthy. But in the midst of Michaels' and Collinsworth's being shocked the play would stand, they stumbled over the reason why.

Cris: I’m stunned.

Al: Yeah, we looked at that, and it looks like it could go either way.

That’s exactly right. It could have gone either way. One person can look at a video of Clement’s catch and argue possession began when it was first in his hands. Another might argue possession began only when he got full control of the football, which did not occur until he was out of bounds. Quite honestly, it’s impossible to quantify.

Which means, by rule, the call stands. This is simple stuff. No need to overcomplicate it. Just stick with what the officials watch happen live on the field.

Al: We’ve seen that called incomplete, I would say the majority of time.

If that’s the case — and I’m not saying it isn’t — then this entire catch rule mess is on the NFL. The rule is fine. The problem is there’s too much legislation coming from super slow-motion footage that can tell two different versions of the same story depending on when you hit pause. Stop doing this.

People are so hung up on the catch rule that they’re not even watching the game anymore.

The broadcast spent the initial moments after Ertz dove across the goal-line deliberating over whether he completed the catch while going to the ground. After all, the ball did pop free briefly when it hit the ground, which, again, certainly warrants another look.

Except the whole time they’re having this debate, they’re ignoring the fact that Ertz took three full steps with the football before lunging for the end zone.

Al: And again, all you can think back to now is the Jesse James play with Pittsburgh. Does he complete the process?

Cris: I don’t know. That ball comes loose. He does catch it, but at what point is it loose on the ground?

The whole “going to the ground” thing is supposed to dictate diving or leaping plays, which makes sense. If the ball makes contact with the turf in that situation, it could be argued the receiver used the ground to aid the catch. James was diving while making his now-infamous non-catch. Ertz was upright for three steps before diving for the end zone. It’s not the same thing.

Eventually, Michaels and Collinsworth do turn the debate over to whether Ertz was a runner and not a receiver at the time possession was lost, yet are still lost on how this whole replay thing works.

Cris: I think they have to overturn it. Now, the question was: Was he a runner? Was he going to the ground in the process of the catch? If he were a runner and crosses the line and dives, it would’ve been a touchdown. But if he’s still a receiver going to the ground in the process of the catch, I think this is incomplete.

Al: Yep. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s gonna get overturned.

If you “have to guess,” then the call on the field probably shouldn’t be overturned, should it? This isn’t the bomb squad with the announce team needing to guess whether to cut the red wire or the blue wire to prevent an explosive device from detonating.

Do us all a favor: Don’t guess. That goes for NFL head of officiating Al Riveron, too, or whoever is pulling the trigger on these reviews in the future. If you have to guess, you’re doing it wrong.

One last thing.

Cris: I think he was running and diving for the end zone, but what constitutes going to the ground? It’s always close. It’s subjective.

How was this particular play in any way subjective? Ertz was upright when he caught the ball. He remained upright for three whole steps. He controlled the football the entire time. Then he willingly dove, entirely of his own volition, for the express purpose of reaching the ball across the goal line.

Again, the NFL needs to clarify its standards. The catch rule could probably use some work, but that’s not the real problem. The larger issue is how the league is going to use replay moving forward.

Obviously, the replay rule will continue to play some role in determining what is or is not a catch. It’s unavoidable. But whatever way it manifests itself in the coming seasons, let’s hope and pray it removes the need for the Als and Crises of the world to weigh in with their opinion of how the reviews will turn out.

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

You can't really fake it at an All-Star Game, especially one where people are actually trying. There's no lucking your way into a couple open shots and a couple generous foul calls and all of a sudden rolling your way to a 30-plus-point game; there's no isolating one defensive mismatch and exploiting it to make yourself look like '01 Shaq. Generally speaking, an All-Star Game shakes out as it should: The best shine the brightest, and those who aren't ready yet fade into the periphery with extra motivation to step things up for next year. 

And that's why it's so awesome that Joel Embiid, a mere 75 games into his NBA career, unquestionably belonged on the biggest stage with the biggest names last night. Playing for Stephen Curry's squad, JoJo posted 19 points on 8-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and two blocks, and a +5 rating for the night -- the only positive plus/minus for the Steph starters. 

Out of context, those numbers may not sound particularly impressive for an All-Star outing, considering the final score of 2017's game was 192-182. But thanks to increased financial and personal motivation in this year's game, the competition was ratcheted up, and though the final score was still a robust 148-145 -- Team LeBron emerging victorious -- no one player really went off in this one, with Team Stephen being led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (21 each). Consider that JoJo's 19 outpaced both teammates James Harden (12 points on 5-19 FG) and Curry himself (13 on 4-14 FG) -- only two of the greatest scorers in NBA history. 

And what's more, down the stretch it was Embiid who seemed most ready to rise to the moment. With minutes remaining and his team up one, Embiid posted up LeBron James -- LeBron James!! -- for an easy bucket, and with the score tied and under a minute left, he got stuck isolated on the perimeter against Paul George, and still ended up blocking George's shot to win the possession back for his team. Had his squad been able to hang on in this one, he would've been able to mount a fairly compelling case for MVP, which would've made him the first player since at least the 20th century to win top honors in his first All-Star appearance. 

Of course, it didn't happen that way, and Team Stephen coach Mike D'Antoni might get most of the blame as to why. With his squad up one and Team LeBron inbounding out of a timeout, D'Antoni opted for some incomprehensible reason to bench Embiid, his best defensive player -- which, somewhat unsurprisingly, resulted in LeBron scoring quickly and easily at the basket to go up one, and then DeMar DeRozan throwing the ball away at the other end. Embiid entered for the final possession, with his team needing a three to tie, and he had a chance to hoist one, but understandably passed to Curry, who drove his way into traffic and ended up not even getting a shot off. Team LeBron won, and James took home his third MVP. 

Frustrating finish, but it can't ruin what came before: Joel Embiid squaring off against the best the NBA has to offer, and proving himself a factor. (Also nailed a three and then blocked a Russell Westbrook drive at the other end, btw, so that beautiful random feud lives on.) He got as good as he gave -- LeBron drilled a triple in his face immediately after JoJo took him down low -- but he was in the mix, and a crucial part of his team's successes and failures. It should be the first of many such All-Star starring roles for Embiid, and hopefully the last for some time that doesn't also include him being flanked by Process Truster in Arms Ben Simmons. 

But even if it isn't -- even if nothing good ever happens again with Joel, and we look back at this All-Star Game 25 years from now as the high point of this career -- it still would have all been worth it. It was worth it when the team went 10-5 two Januarys ago. It was maybe worth it when Embiid gave his first-ever post-game interview following a Sixers win. 

That's what people will never understand about The Process, and that's what makes nights like this so gratifying. Franchises go decades, entire generations, without getting a moment to feel this way about one of their players, and even getting the chance to feel it about one of ours is worth seasons of sacrifice. JoJo lives, and somewhere in the bowels of the Staples Center last night, Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie had to be there and be smiling. Hope he enjoyed the Fergie national anthem as much as I did, as well. 

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

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SB Nation/Twitter

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

Updated at 12:50 a.m.

Early Sunday, a video surfaced on social media that appeared to put Sixers’ guard JJ Redick in an extremely poor light. Redick has since responded to clear up the situation.

Here’s what happened:

At about 8 a.m., a post appeared on Reddit showing a screenshot and caption alleging that Redick said a racial slur during a video from NBA players wishing Chinese fans a Happy New Year. The video caused a huge uproar on social media. If you wish to see the video, it is located here, at the top.

On the surface, without a response, it looked odd from the start. Redick, who we have come to know as a well-spoken individual who is typically very appreciative of basketball fans, isn’t someone you’d expect this from, let alone with a camera pointing directly at his face with an NBA microphone in front of his lips.

He offered this response on his official Twitter account, saying he was tongue-tied and had no intentions of saying what he did on the video.

Fans reacted on both sides of the issue, some still asking for an apology and others taking Redick for his word. 

On Sunday night, Redick followed up with a longer statement on his Twitter and Instagram, where he further explained himself and indeed issued an apology.

Please read. Thank you.

A post shared by JJ Redick (@jjredick) on

Early Monday, Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin tweeted a statement saying that he spoke with Redick and believes the Sixers' guard didn't say a racial slur.

With the All-Star Break going on, Redick won’t be available for a few more days for the media to ask him about this. There’s a chance this story will continue into next week.