The NFL’s Red Zone channel is all that keeps me invested while trying to watch football on Sundays these days. The best thing about it is this: As the officials take charge of games in one location, Scott Hanson and his crew will move quickly to another game.

I can’t share Scott’s excitement when his directors decide to go to a “triple box’’ of action, but Red Zone has become the only football watching respite from constant flags and officials’ discussions and the dreaded “this is a chance for another four-minute commercial break’’ replays.

Every time the game’s analyst tells us how great it is the officials are getting together to hold a discussion on a flag that was thrown … wouldn’t you like to reach through the screen and whack the guy upside the head?

If it takes a two-minute meeting of officials, the flag shouldn’t have been thrown in the first place.

On this past Sunday, I was in a location where Red Zone was not available, which meant 100% attention being paid to the Vikings and the Jaguars, in all their glory. There were grandchildren in the vicinity, or it’s tough to imagine the level of profanity that I would’ve been shouting at the TV screen as flags flew and officials huddled.

There have been many reasons offered for the decline in TV ratings for the NFL in 2016. There is only one reason why the tradition of Sunday football has become less appealing to me in recent years.

Permit to offer that as loudly as possible with the written word (meaning caps):


I had never heard of this guy who was running the show Sunday in Jacksonville, a referee named John Hussey, but this dimwit and his crew …

They did everything possible to turn a game that was unappealing on the surface into a full-blown fiasco.

They assessed 14 penalties for 114 yards against Jacksonville and seven penalties for 93 yards against the Vikings.

There was a game in October when the Oakland Raiders were assessed 23 penalties. Terry McAuley was the referee in that one. He’s supposed to be good at it.

This has nothing to do with the NFL and an alleged need for full-time officials. It could get worse if the NFL goes through with the rumored move to hire 17 full-timers (including the referees, presumably) for its officiating staffs in the near future.

Those full-timers won’t have anything else to do with their working lives other than to sit around all week, review game tapes and then break it down for crew members at their weekend pregame meetings with comments such as:

“Gabe, you could have called a penalty here, and on this one, and this one, and that would have given me three more chances to get on camera and talk into my microphone, and you know, that’s what I love about this job.’’

The issue is two-fold:

*The rules the NFL officials are being told to enforce should fit on a Bill Musgrave play-calling sheet; instead, the book is closer to a Churchill memoir.

*The NFL appears to be training its officials to have the approach, “When there’s doubt, throw the flag,’’ rather than what in the previous century seemed to be, “Any doubt, keep your flag and let the players decide.’’

There are probably a dozen memorable happenings in an average game, and the idea that in 2016, half of those seem to be penalties … there’s not a better reason for reduced live viewing of the NFL.

Thank goodness for Scott Hanson, or two Tylenol PMs and an afternoon nap would be a better option than the NFL on a cold winter Sunday.

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