The NFL Referees Fiasco
The end of the Green Bay Seattle game was an absolute joke. Twitter exploded, I listened to the Nick and Artie show on a podcast today and they were on live as it happened and couldn’t get over it. I still can’t get over it. I close my eyes now and see two refs running in and both looking down, looking at each other, lifting their hands simultaneously, one to signify timeout and likely touchback, the other to signify touchdown. It was incredible, confusing, confounding and completely showed the issues inherently involved in officiating an NFL game.
I didn’t say the issues with replacement referees. I didn’t say it was the issue that you’re just going to see with these sub-standard, replacement referees; guys who haven’t done a tv game, let alone a game that had a single player on the field that was drafted into the NFL, let alone a field full of the greatest football players on the planet. I didn’t say that it was the fault of replacement referees because, I don’t think a regular referee would have gotten the play exactly right either.
Then again, with the original referees, the game wouldn’t have come down to a hail mary. I don’t think that drives would have continued on many of the penalties that we saw last night. Lots of the things you see are obviously bad, and obviously wrong. Many, many calls are wrong, but many more are passed up, that’s where the issues come up that legitimize so many of these idiot’s arguments.
“The NFL isn’t going to get serious about bringing back real refs until it costs somebody a game!” ”These replacement refs are going to get somebody killed!” ”Give them the money! The replacements are making the game unwatchable!” Yet, as every know-it-all retweeter will tell you and everyone else, you won’t stop watching. The games are bad and everyone knows it. The chippy behavior that’s been a standard rather than an exception through the first 3 weeks stems from the lack of control that comes from using replacement referees.
My problem lies in the coverage. We now have NFL Network, all Time Warner Cable subscribers have it now, 2 days after the only Panthers game available on their network, but hey better late than never. The NFL Network pre-game show was curiously devoid of any sort of criticism of officials. ESPN, on the other hand, is beating that drum almost constantly. They were covering it last week when they thought the Broncos/Falcons game got out of hand. That game resulted in about $75,000 worth of fines John Fox and Jack Del Rio, and it really was out of hand. The coaches were all over the referees and it got a little ugly. Lets just say, if you could read lips, Johnny Fox was saying a good bit more than “It is what it is.”
So, if you listen to ESPN Radio, watch Sportscenter, keep up with their website, you are getting beaten over the head with coverage on how bad that one call was, how it’s the end of a long line of bad calls, how finally, someone got hurt and how it did finally cost someone a game. Now as if to legitimize the ESPN standpoint, the league and the referees are coming to an agreement.
It’s not that it isn’t outstanding ineptitude in the singular form of a horrible, game defining call, it completely is all that and then some. The NFL draws that kind of attention. The players lockout last year drew more attention than the NBA lockout and the NFL didn’t lose but one game, not a week, not a slate, but just the Hall of Fame Game, while the NBA lockout lost 8 weeks of games. So, the attention is due, the transgressions are valid, but somehow I still have an issue with the coverage? Why?
It’s something we all know to be fact yet we have no control and we should have some control. It’s almost like the government. You get pissed at the way things are run but seriously, what are you going to do? Move to Canada? For the NFL, what are you going to do? Watch baseball? College? Much like unending election coverage, beating the dead horse of this play is as useless as signing a petition against higher taxes.
ESPN is a partner of the NFL. Certainly their participation isn’t as tied to it as Fox or CBS, and they do have to fill 24 hours a day with coverage, but let’s get real here. It’s officiating. It’s not some moral dilemma for us as a nation. The NFL and protecting the shield and all that, they’re important. The integrity of the game, that’s important. Taking care of the people who have been around, that’s important. But holding this up as a great example of how losing focus or not paying somebody exactly how and what they want to be paid is not what we need.
Beating all of us over the head with the constant “Oh isn’t this horrible!?” isn’t just annoying, it’s condescending. Fans have earned more than that. We should get better coverage from the media outlets we turn to when we know what’s happened but don’t know how to deal with it.
That’s the rub with the League as well. The league came out with a statement yesterday upholding the play, the game, the win for Seattle but at the same time saying “Yeah but he did push off and they should have called that, but they didn’t and we gotta hold up the win.” Simultaneously saying everything we all expected but giving us none of the answers we deserve. They condescend to us as well.
So, without sounding to heavyhearted, I’m concerned about the state of the entire sports world. The labor disputes have me worried. The coverage has me disgusted and the attention we all give to all of it is honestly a little disturbing. Fan, as Colin Cowherd reminds us often, is short for fanatic and while we’re fanatical about sports, we need not be obsessed. Sorry, I’ll step off my soapbox now.