In his “explanation” of the missed call on Sunday, referee Bill Vinovich noted that the lack of a flag was “a judgment call.” That’s hard to swallow when you look at the specific play, but it’s a big problem in the long run.

This blown call was glaring. It was obviously incorrect, to anyone watching, even without the benefit of slow-motion or multiple angles. But it was an outlier. Most pass interference calls are less immediately clear—they are, in every sense of the term, judgment calls. On how many pass plays would a close examination reveal mutual handfighting, or a little push-off by the receiver, or even just minimal contact that violates the letter of the law but not what we currently consider its spirit? On most of them? Would officials be able to reverse a DPI call into an OPI? Would they be willing? These are real questions, and they are thorny enough that it may not even be worth trying to work out the answers through praxis..


It is a paradox common to all replay controversies that events, when viewed in slow-motion, become increasingly divorced from their realities at life speed, that objective observation is impossible on a scale so alien to the situation in which they actually occurred. Pass interference may simply be one of those types of plays where an official’s judgment—of whether a defender interfered with a receiver’s ability to catch a thrown football—is generally more correct in realtime than it would be with all the trappings of technology.

It just didn’t happen to be that way this time. But preventing future occurrences of this relatively rare situation would create many, many more new problems. At a certain point, football has to be left imperfect, and, yes, a little unfair, if you want it to remain football. Not that that’s any consolation to the Saints.