Yogi Berra would find the XFL a bit confusing. The Hall of Fame baseball player once observed that it’s never over ‘til it’s over but the new professional football league has found a way to make games end before they’re over.
The XFL has experienced its first major officiating error
Saturday’s XFL game between the Houston Roughnecks and Seattle Dragons ended two seconds too soon. If you question that just ask the league and they’ll say as much.
Replays showed that the officials left the field after Houston quarterback P.J. Walker took a knee on fourth down in the closing moments of the fourth quarter with the Roughnecks holding a 32-23 lead.
The problem is that the clock showed two seconds were left, meaning Seattle should have taken over on downs at the Houston 23 with one chance to score. If the Dragons did record a touchdown, XFL rules allow for a three-point conversion play that could have tied the game.
ABC announcer Steve Levy immediately called out the referees for the error but the replay official told ABC the game was over and there was no way to undo the mistake.
The XFL acted quickly to admit an error was made
“Saturday’s Seattle Dragons-Houston Roughnecks game should not have ended as it did,” the XFL conceded in a statement on Twitter after the game.
The league recounted what transpired on the final play that shouldn’t have been the final play and concluded with this:
“The XFL sincerely regrets this error. In addition, Wes Booker, who served as officiating supervisor for Saturday’s game, has been reassigned.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what reassigning Booker means, but that’s probably the end of any in-game responsibilities for him for the remainder of the season.
No plans to replay the end of the game were announced – Houston improved to 5-0 and Seattle fell to 1-4 — but the speed with which the league admitted a mistake and then took a step to make sure fans knew someone was being held accountable for it undoubtedly buys credibility.
The league has already scored points for innovation in its rookie season, with the willingness to let fans inside the replay booth during reviews being one of the significant differences between the XFL and NFL.
The XFL should recover quickly from this mistake
It’s not like what happened in the XFL on Saturday caused the wrong team to advance to the playoffs. The officiating error only potentially cost a team a chance to score and then maybe send a regular-season contest into overtime. In that context, the mistake may have been embarrassing but won’t be remembered for very long.
On the other hand, some of what the XFL has gotten right thus far will have staying power with football fans. Ironically, one of its innovations involves the on-field officials. The XFL added a man to the crew to get the ball spotted more quickly, reducing the amount of dead time between plays.
The XFL’s overtime rule modeled after NHL shootouts will be a hit with XFL fans after seeing it in action a few times. The in-game interviews with coaches have already proven superior to college football sideline reporters grabbing coaches for one-and two-question chats before or after halftime.
Also, the NFL is going to have to revamp the way it handles extra-point attempts again at some point because moving the line of scrimmage back made conversion attempts only slightly more difficult. By offering teams one-, two, and-three-point options to run or throw the ball for extra points after touchdowns the XFL has given the more established league the template for improving upon the mundane.