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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Cowboys' Jerry Jones should take the high road

The problems with Dallas' gigantic video screen aren't his fault, but the owner could step up and raise the screen anyway.

August 29, 2009|SAM FARMER

What in the H . . . DTV is going on?

The NFL is tweaking the rule book less than two weeks before the start of the season just to accommodate the gigantic video board suspended over the field in the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium?

Usually, the league fidgets and fusses over a rules change, making an alteration only after years of studies, statistics and arguments over the integrity of the game. This change took six days.

Yes, it was an emergency situation, with the regular season almost upon us. And, no, Jerry Jones is not to blame, seeing as the Cowboys owner not only met but also exceeded the inadequate specifications of the league that there must be at least 85 feet of clearance above the field.

But the board can be raised, and it should be. As it is, though, the league has opted to "Jerry-rig" the rule book. Commissioner Roger Goodell informed teams Friday that if a ball in play hits the video board -- as a Tennessee Titans punt did a week earlier -- the clock will be reset and the down will be replayed.

Is this a huge deal with game-changing implications? Probably not, although there are some scenarios in which it could be an issue. But it's a time when: A) the league should admit it made a mistake and pay for it to be corrected, and B) Jones should look beyond his own interests for the good of the game.

Adopting special rules for a specific stadium is silly, and should be an absolute last resort. That obviously isn't the case with the video board, considering it's being raised for a U2 concert in October.

This comes down to pride and stubbornness, and is unflattering for both sides.

There's no doubt Jones is an innovator who has enriched the league. His 60-yard-long video screen might change the way we watch live football, but should live football change for the video screen?

Some people argue that this rule isn't unique, that there were already do-overs in the ultra-rare cases when the ball struck skycam wires. If warmups on Aug. 21 were any indication, it's a lot easier to hit the video board. Titans punter Craig Hentrich said he nailed it a dozen times.

Besides, there might not be any other way to suspend a skycam, whereas raising the video board by 20 feet seems far more simple.

The possibilities of problems that could arise with the video board this season range from the plausible (limiting the strategies of a team trying to force a fair catch) to the interesting but wildly far-fetched (a quarterback intentionally heaving a Hail Mary into the board because his receivers are covered).

Regardless, the league shouldn't have to dream up all the potential complications. It should be a non-issue.

Although I've seen the video board only in the construction stages, I've heard it's amazing. It stretches from one 20-yard line to the other, has an incredibly crisp picture, and makes players 72 feet tall.

Jones should seize this opportunity to step up -- even though this mess isn't his fault -- and stand even taller. Because going up for the good of the game is not the same as backing down.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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