Hands-on in Baltimore: Belichick and Harbaugh Make Contact with Officials
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: September 24, 2012
Last week, Denver head coach John Fox could be seen berating officials along the sideline, particularly after a thirteen minute delay involving an on-field skirmish and multiple replacement refs conferring to determine which team should be penalized and for what. As we watched the red-faced Fox rip into a visibly affected official, many thought this must the peak of embarrassment in the replacement official experiment. And it was. Until yesterday.
Sunday’s slate of games included an alarming array of ineptitude, but it all seemed to come to a head toward the conclusion of last night’s AFC Championship rematch between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, as both head coaches laid hands on the officials.
Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh has publicly apologized for his indiscretion, which he believes was wrongly interpreted as bumping the official. He explained after the game he was trying to get the official’s attention in the fourth quarter in order to call a timeout, but was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct in the process. New England head coach Bill Belichick’s interaction with an official at the game’s conclusion, on the other hand, was deliberate. He believed Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker’s game-winning field goal should have been reviewed; the officials began to leave the field without addressing him on the matter, so he grabbed the last one by the arm in an effort to hear an explanation to which he was entitled. The gesture was fruitless, as the ref continued running off the field without stopping to discuss the final play. True to Belichick form, he deferred any lengthy explanation, but his frustration was obvious.
In Harbaugh’s case, it’s not unreasonable for him to fear an official may miss his request for timeout. The refs had no control over a game that began with pushing, shoving and jawing after nearly every play; it’s not inconceivable they could miss a coach calling timeout. Harbaugh could have refrained from making physical contact, but ran the risk of missing his timeout. His public apology should also go a long way in making amends with the League. Belichick, on the other hand, could very well receive a fine from Park Avenue later this week. Consciously grabbing an official is strictly forbidden in the NFL, even when the refs in question have spent the previous sixty minutes compromising of the game. I keep wondering when enough might finally be enough; seeing the typically emotionless Bill Belichick visibly affected by performance of the replacement refs is another one of those moments.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @arahomik
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