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A Mockery of Epic Proportions

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(Editor’s Note: The first draft of this article was written prior to the Monday Night debacle, but after what transpired a full-edit was more than necessary)

After watching the replacement refs bungle their way through games for the third straight week highlighted by the Seattle Screwjob, one thing is deadly obvious; this charade has to end, and it has to end now.

The current teams of NFL replacement officials are real-life 8th grade teachers, accountants, and auto mechanics who moonlight as referees for high school and small college games…  That means they are probably good at shaping the lives of middle-schoolers, filing tax forms, and fixing cars. Who knows, maybe they have even more talents such as karaoke, table-tennis, or movie trivia. However, anyone that has watched even a few minutes of NFL football this season can honestly say that one talent not possessed by this group is the ability to effectively officiate NFL games.

It was cute in the preseason… “Aww shucks, the back judge was just fixing up a Toyota and now he’s calling offensive pass-interference on Percy Harvin.” But the joke’s over; games are being decided at the hands of this overmatched group of glorified NFL fans. Teams are going to miss the playoffs because of calls made and not made deciding the games over the first month of the season. These wins and losses count just the same as any other. There won’t be an asterisk or a do-over. Over the past week, 3 out of the 4 prime-time showcase games were decided not by the players on the field, but by off-the-clock Foot Locker employees.

Aside from not knowing what is and what isn’t a penalty, these officials control the game about as well as MC Hammer controlled his budget. I personally watch every game of the season live or recorded and I thought I saw it all over the first two weeks of the season. Aside from the blown calls, the most unbelievable thing that I’ve witnessed, and I’ve seen it over and over again, is the officials seemingly throwing flags 8-10 seconds after the play is over. I assumed last Monday night was the tipping point with the game starting and stopping more than traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard. Pass interference on players not even near the receiver, defensive holding on run plays, Matt Ryan lobbying officials for roughing the passer calls… and actually getting them. Then last night in the Ravens – Patriots game, I saw two of the best teams in the league called for dozens of penalties, 13 of which for first downs. The pass interference calls were painfully apparent, the cluelessness of how to handle the last second field goal (although I do believe the kick was good) was nauseating, but the most shocking penalty that I witnessed occurred near the Ravens sideline. The ball was thrown out of bounds and the Patriots defender was heading back across the field toward his sideline, John Harbaugh then starting yelling towards the official for pass interference. The ref looked over at Harbaugh, dropped his flag, then went over and talked to the Ravens coach. I’m not insinuating that he was asking him what to call, but with these refs, anything is possible.

Incomplete? Must’ve had a bad angle…

As if the calls weren’t bad enough, an official about to take the field to officiate the week 2 Saints-Panthers game had to be pulled from the crew three hours prior to kickoff. Why? Because he is a die-hard Saints fan who has publicly declared his allegiance to the team. Conflict of interest much?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said on Philadelphia sports radio station 94WIP that the officials were being blatantly bullied by players. McCoy elaborated: “During the game, they made like a bad call or something, the ref, and I see Ray Lewis like pump his chest up, trying to scare him, don’t you know [the ref] started stuttering? I’m like ‘what’s this?!’” Still, the icing on the cake from the McCoy interview was the following exchange: “They’re like fans, kind of though, I’ll be honest, they’re like fans. One of the refs was talking about his fantasy team, like ‘McCoy, come on, I need you for my fantasy,’ ahhh, what?!” The ref was discussing his fantasy football team on the field?! During the game?! Not only are officials, by NFL rules, not permitted to play fantasy football, but they certainly are not allowed to encourage or root for players on either team. If those things are really happening, Would be too big of a leap to at least consider the possibility of a Tim Donaghy situation? With what I just watched, if you were to tell me that crew was on the take, I most certainly would not be surprised.

What I’ve heard over and over again (and even I said it the first week) is that the officials “are doing the best they can”  After watching game after game be changed at the hands of the officials, I have to say, there’s a hard truth to life… sometimes your best just isn’t good enough. Put it this way, I have an iPod, I also designed this website. From those two pieces of information you can probably gather that: 1) I like Apple products and 2) I have gotten a website (albeit an extremely rudimentary one) up and running. If tomorrow, for some reason all of the Apple programmers were locked out of their Silicon Valley offices and CEO Tim Cook called me and said: “Hey Jason, You like Apple, right?… and you’ve put a website together before, right?… how about you come out to Cupertino and take over as head programmer.” Now, let’s just say I took Mr. Cook up on his offer. When I got there, I would try the best I could, I would work 10, 12, 15 hours a day, whatever it took to do the best job possible. The problem is, I have nowhere near the skillset required to be a head programmer, an associate programmer, or a programmer of any kind. In short, my best would be not only subpar; it would be so grossly subpar that it would make a mockery of Apple and the programming industry. That is what the replacement refs are doing to the NFL.

The Monday night game has been over for 90 minutes and the mouths of NFL fans around the world are still agape. I cannot believe that the multi-billion Dollar NFL machine, adamant about “Protecting the Shield,” is not only sacrificing the integrity of the game that they’ve sworn to defend, but making a flat-out mockery of it. What’s going on is tantamount to buying a two-million dollar Bugatti Veyron, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on customization, then slashing the tires and trying to drive.  It doesn’t matter how good something looks if it’s fundamentally flawed.

Right now the NFL is a victim of self-inflicted sabotage. It’s broken and the fix would require a room full of billionaires to put their egos aside and do what’s right for the league, the players, the game, and the fans who willingly shell out their hard earn money. Pardon me for my lack of optimism…


One Response to “A Mockery of Epic Proportions”

  1. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there is an end in sight, even with this glaring sample. The players are not able to do anything due to their CBA, and the fans would have to commit to multiple weeks of boycott for it to have any affect there. The fastest way for anything to happen would be for corporate sponsors to pull their advertising from NFL Network and the network broadcasts and I don’t see that happening. While the pension issue is sticky and could snow ball concidering that they just slashed the full time employees retirements, the fact of the matter is the team owners are still making money. And like it or not, much like the player holdout last year and the NBA holdout, once its over, the fans will forget it ever happened and go about business as usual. It doesn’t look good.

    Posted by G Juhasz | September 25, 2012, 10:27 am

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