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That 'incomplete pass' in the AFC playoff is still bouncing

The disputed call in last Sunday's American Football Conference championship game between Pittsburgh and Houston has caused quite a chain reaction. Upon viewing NBC's instant replay, broadcasters Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen were critical of the officials' call, which disallowed Mike Renfro's would-be touchdown catch in the back of the Steeler end zone. Olsen and Enberg observed on the air that both Renfro's feet were in bounds and the completion was wrongly denied. After the game, however, the lone reporter permitted to talk to the officials learned that the apparent touchdown was disallowed because Renfro didn't have possession of the ball.

Indicating that its own game films proved the correctness of the call, the National Football League criticized Enberg and Olsen for being so quick to draw conclusions.

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Then it was NBC's turn to come to the defense of its broadcast team. After viewing the NFL's films at the league's New York's office, Don Ohlmeyer, NBC's executive producer of sports, said, "I played back the NFL version three times. I think it is no more revealing than what our cameras showed during the game."

Furthermore, Ohlmeyer questioned why the officials did not inform the public and press box of the ruling's details at the time of the play. Referees are in the habit of using clip-on microphones to announce penalties, and here, it seemed, was an ideal opportunity to clear up a confusing call.

Obviously most incomplete passes require no explanation, but this was no ordinary call judging by the officials' minute-long conference in the end zone.


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