Tim Benz: Kentucky Derby controversy a warning amid NFL rules changes | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz: Kentucky Derby controversy a warning amid NFL rules changes

Tim Benz
Luis Saez rides Maximum Security, second from right, to the finish line during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Country House was declared the winner after Maximum Security was disqualified following a review by race stewards.

It’s probably not the best strategy to start a sports column with an admission that you are utterly unfamiliar with the sport you are discussing.

But here goes.

I know very little about horse racing. Just because I’m built like a jockey, doesn’t mean I know anything about riding a horse.

So I’m going to refrain from opining about what occurred at the end of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby when an instant replay decision removed victory from apparent winner Maximum Security.

I’m afraid I may come off sounding like a real horse’s ah …. um … a real jerk.

That’s what I meant to say. A real jerk.

One thing I do know about, though, is sports fans who complain incessantly about instant replay creeping into sports too much.

I rest my case.

For those who may have missed the controversy, Maximum Security was disqualified after the race, and 65-1 long-shot Country House was given the win.

Three race stewards determined that Maximum Security was guilty of interfering with three other horses, starting with War of Will. So, the victorious steed was disqualified.

Has anyone gotten a quote from Maximum Security after the race? He really should’ve made himself available to the media.

Then again, the stewards didn’t. They merely issued a statement explaining their decision. We’ll be getting those statements regularly come football season. Get ready, NFL fans. Because what you just saw in the “Super Bowl” of horse racing may be coming to the actual Super Bowl.

Essentially, what the whole country is complaining about — allowing for a penalty to be administered after the fact in a horse race — is exactly what the NFL approved this offseason.

Remember, the league instituted a rules change in March which (via NFL.com) “allows for offensive and defensive pass interference, including non-calls, to be subject to review. Coaches can challenge those calls in the first 28 minutes of each half. In the final two minutes of each half, those calls will be subject to a booth review.”

In other words, the “stewards” in the NFL replay booth will get to assess a penalty after the fact against a guy in the secondary, just as we saw a horse being penalized in the Derby on Saturday.

“A defensive back walks into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Hey, pal, why the long face?’”

Each call won’t take 20 minutes, as was the case at Churchill Downs. But, as I’ve previously warned, I could easily see the last two minutes of every game lasting about an hour due to the number of reviews we are going to see as a result.

The Maximum Security case is the ultimate example of people being mad when a 50-50 call is decided by replay, and they scream “it should only be about the egregious misses!”

But who gets to determine what’s egregious? And in this case specifically, what would’ve constituted egregious? Three or four horses colliding with each other and getting euthanized on the track in front of 157,000 people?

That’s why the rule is on the books, and that’s why the race stewards enforced it. They just shouldn’t have taken 20 minutes to do it.

Ok, so I guess I will opine after all.

I wasn’t that put off by what happened at the Derby. Most of the analysis I read from people who actually know the sport tells me that a foul occurred. And, unlike other sports, there is no way to overturn the decision until the event is over.

There are no tackles, dead balls, or timeouts in horse racing. What are you supposed to do? Throw a challenge flag, review, realign the horse, and pick up the race where it left off with a quarter mile left to go?

Plus, horse racing is kinda where replay started, right? Weren’t photo finishes of horse races the forefathers of instant replay in the first place?

Or should we consider that a horse of a different color?

I’m done now. I swear.

My point is, don’t get too bent out of shape over what happened in Louisville. But do get prepared for what may happen a few miles away in Cincinnati the next time the Bengals host the Steelers.

Because it’s entirely possible the NFL has opened itself up for either team to get a reversal against them just as controversial as what happened to Maximum Security.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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