It's not the refs, it's the rules
During Monday night's game there was a controversial call concerning a muffed fair catch. I didn't see it, but I'd like to comment on it extensively. From listening to honest talk radio, here's what I think I hear happened:
The ball was punted. The receiver signaled for a fair catch. When he tried to catch the ball, it bounced off of him and -- before hitting the ground -- into the hands of a member of the kicking team. Turns out that's not legal, and not only did the receiving team get the ball, the kicking team was penalized.
This was the correct call according to the rules. I discussed this with a good friend of mine who is a high school and collegiate official. He wrote,
The reasoning behind the rule is that (the receiving team) says, "OK - fine. We won't advance it but you gotta stay off me until I cannot possibly catch this thing. That means if I muff it high into the air, you gotta let me continue to try and catch it! I promise I won't advance it. Promise!" K says," fine - but you promise not to advance it if you catch it? OK. But if you drop it and it hits the ground, we're gonna smack you, but good."
It's all a series of trade-offs. They also look at Fair Catch receivers as being especially vulnerable to contact while their attention is focused on the kick, and they wish to protect them.
I still think the kicking team should be able to get the ball before it hits the ground while still making contact with the receiver off limits. But hate the rule, not the rulers. Like my good friend also wrote,
I don't write 'em. I just try to memorize 'em.