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Dear The NFL: The CFL Is So Much Better At Video Reviews Than You Are

As the NFL keeps pondering ways to define the undefinable when it comes to pass interference, the CFL just up and simplified things for everyone. Seriously, someone over on Park Avenue should probably take a look at this statement that was put out this morning by the CFL’s commissioner and senior director of officiating.

Among other things, the letter really highlights just how allergic to plain English the NFL is (emphasis in the original text):

With the 2019 CFL regular season about to kick off, we want to be as clear as possible on the role of the Command Centre, the standard on which it will conduct video reviews and the philosophy behind that standard. The Command Centre will focus on only overturning calls or non-calls made on the field where a clear and obvious mistake has been made. In other words, we do not want the game officiated from the Command Centre. The officials on the field have the best sense of the game and usually have a superior vantage point compared to a camera on the sidelines or in the stands.

The Command Centre is just a “back up” to correct clear and obvious mistakes – what are sometimes called egregious errors. Anyone who has played the game, or cheered for a team, knows how one views any play can be somewhat subjective. So how do we, as objectively as possible, define clear and obvious? Clear refers to the visibility of the issue in question. Can you see, for example, the ball clearly on the replay? Or the foot on the sideline? Is the camera angle straight down the line? Or is it off to the side? Obvious refers to an indisputable reference point, such as a yard line, a sideline, or a knee down. Can you easily see, for example, that the contact on a receiver was early? Or do you have to resort to looking at it in slow motion?

Simply put, you shouldn’t have to watch something several times, or watch at different speeds, if it is clear and obvious. Why is clear and obvious our standard? Why not strive to get every single call right, even if the error was less than clear and obvious? We want to keep the length of Command Centre reviews reasonable. We do not want video review to slow the pace or flow of the game. We especially do not want it to adversely affect our fans’ enjoyment of the game.

Watching players stand around while the Command Centre looks at a play for a long time is simply not fun. We also want to reduce the total number of challenges by making sure our coaches know they should not use a challenge to simply seek a second opinion; they should only use it to challenge clear and obvious mistakes.

Like every player and every official in every game, no standard is perfect. But we believe this approach is in the best interests of our great game.

Randy Ambrosie
Commissioner
CFL

Darren Hackwood
Senior Director, Officiating
CFL

The NFL also has a “clear and obvious” standard for overturning calls on the field; it just hasn’t always adhered to it. And now that pass interference calls and non-calls will be subject to replay review—with a possible exemption for the Hail Mary, which the NFL would somehow have to define, which can only mean more bullshit for everyone to get confused about—Judy Battista of NFL Media reports that the league is still working on articulating some some sort of exacting standard for what’s often an inexact sequence of events. Meanwhile, the CFL is up there cutting right to the chase. Watching players stand around while the Command Centre looks at a play for a long time is simply not fun. Seems clear and obvious, eh?

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Dom Cosentino

Dom Cosentino is a staff writer at Deadspin.