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THE LAST THING WE NEED IS ANOTHER PLAY-IT-AGAIN SHAM

Memo to all pro sports commissioners:

Take your stinkin' replay equipment out of my tax-supported buildings and never darken my video replay booth again.

I just can't take it anymore.

First it was No Goal, perhaps the worst use (or misuse) of video replay and rules application in the history of sport. Then it was the Immaculate Deception, a ruling seemingly designed to get a referee and a league out of a tight spot -- also known as an angry mob -- rather than to address any aspect of what was right or wrong with the final seconds of the Buffalo Bills loss to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC wild-card game.

This past Sunday we saw a perfectly legitimate catch by a Tampa Bay receiver taken down simply because someone, somewhere in the deepest recesses of what appears to be a permanently moored blimp, thought they saw the hint of a bobble in the NFC Championship Game.

To me, that was enough. You can stop it right there, rip the whole VHS, DVD, ABC, What Me Worry? machines out and give them to some other taxpayer-supported institution that doesn't seem to be working. Arthur Eve perhaps?

Yet it gets worse. Tuesday evening in the arena soon to be renamed for a bank without any vowels, officials overruled a Jumbotron replay that clearly showed Sabres forward Brian Holzinger putting a puck past Tampa Bay goaltender Dan Cloutier midway through what was then a 0-0 hockey game.

Yet the officials said it didn't happen.

Now I'll admit this latest manifestation of technological stupidity wasn't overwhelmingly convincing. The TV cameras didn't have it, just the Jumbotron man. There also was no panel of blue-ribbon investigators like the ones who oversee hiring for the Buffalo Board of Education. There was no jury of peers akin to the investigative body that saw fit to set O.J. Simpson free. Heck, it happened so fast even Andre Reed wasn't sure that it was someone else's fault.

But as far as I could tell, up there on a screen the size of Dennis Gorski's consulting fee, was what appeared to be a round black object slithering over a red line and just beyond the outstretched hand and carefully placed stick of Cloutier.

How much more evidence does a person need?

"It was a goal," said Sabres defenseman Jay McKee. "I was standing right there and don't think for a minute goaltenders don't know how to hide shots from the overhead camera."

Great. In a sport so desperate for scoring we've got goalies who cheat and officials who feel they need perfection along the lines of Michelangelo's Pieta to make a call.

Shouldn't just the opposite be true? Goals in the NHL are so few and far between that even the ones that sort of look close should count for something. Perhaps the league could have a column for perceived goals, you know, PGs, squeeze it in between ties (T) and regulation ties (RTs).

I'm serious about this. I've seen enough 0-0 ties and 2-1 games to make me believe the NHL should loosen up to the point that they would qualify for an internship in the White House. Kick the puck in? I don't care. Throw the puck in? Fine. Bounce it off someone's butt, great, make it count for two.

I'd give cumulative points for plays that might someday grow up to be goals. Let's say we take every 10 times Geoff Sanderson blasts a 25-footer off the goalie's pads and combine that with an equal number of just-off-the-net shots by Alexei Zhitnik. Should the total reach 20 in any given game it counts for one perceived goal (PG) to be saved and used at the coaching staff's discretion.

"The way it's going for me this season you would like to think they would all count," said Holzinger, who has all of six. "I thought that one was definitely in."

Truth be told, it was. It just so happened that the goal judge, four on-ice officials (all of whom apparently are content to have replay make the call) and a handful of cameras missed it.

If the system's that bad, why even use it? Just go to the perceived goal judge (NHLPG) and pretend it counted. It can't be any worse than what the NHL and NFL have given us so far.

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