At the risk of further inciting an already frenzied mob of NFL football fans, I ask this question: what’s all the fuss about these replacement NFL referees? After all, what did you expect?
At the end of last night’s Monday night football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, the game came down to a final “Hail Mary” pass by Seattle into the end zone. As has been the case for countless previous such Hail Mary plays, the ball landed amidst a mob scene of opposing players, all scrambling, shoving and pushing to get a chance at the pot luck ball. The (endless) replays clearly showed that the offensive receiver, Seattle’s Golden Tate, pushed an opponent out of the way to gain access to the ball, while another Green Bay defender, M.D. Jennings, seemed to take primary possession of the ball over Tate. Both players hit the ground holding the ball. Arguably, it appeared that Jennings had more of the ball than Tate, but the refs ruled a “simultaneous catch” which favors the receiver Tate, and thus granted Seattle the game-winning touchdown. Oh, I should have used the proper nomenclature, the replacement refs, that is. The whole world went nuts.
This morning I awoke to a media froth that had been whipping up since last night. The “play” was all over the news, and ESPN commentators looked and sounded like the world had just been invaded by aliens, or at least “replacement” aliens. They were uttering wide-eyed terms like “shocked,” “disgusted,” “mystified,” “ruining the integrity of the game,” and “every one of us is having our intelligence insulted.” With that last statement, I finally found something I could agree with.
I hate to be the voice of reason on this issue. No, I actually truly do hate to be the voice of reason on this since the so-called refereeing debacle for me has dialed up the entertainment value of football exponentially (it still is entertainment, isn’t it?). Even by my amateurish eye, there’s no question that the quality of refereeing in the NFL has suffered since the full-time professionals went on strike and the league brought in these replacements. And we are surprised, shocked, mystified by this result… because… why?
Earlier this month 30,000 public school teachers in the city of Chicago went on strike. Does any of us in our right minds think that if the Mayor of Chicago went out and quickly rounded up 30,000 “replacement” teachers, that the quality of education for those 350,000 children wouldn’t have suffered noticeably? Accordingly, when the Writer’s Guild of America has gone on strike, did we not expect the quality of TV shows and movies to suffer at the hands of “replacement” writers? Okay, scratch that example, because I’m pretty sure that the movie script for Starship Troopers was actually written by professional writers who were not on strike, believe it or not.
The point is this: How could we have expected these “replacement” refs to come in and do nearly as good a job as the “real” refs. Presumably, if they were that good and that well trained they would have already been in the NFL to begin with (and therefore also on strike themselves). My take is that these poor fellows have been asked to do something that they’ve never done before, not been fully trained to do, and are therefore relatively less qualified than their striking counterparts. Duh. Under those circumstances, is there any gambler out there who would have bet against this kind of a quality setback in refereeing? Of course not.
I realize that the NFL is a mega entertainment industry, and that team records, professional careers and plenty of dollars are on the line. But until the strike’s over, we need to get over it and give these current refs a break.
My advice would be the same as I’ve always given when coaching our youth athletes. The refs are human beings. They’re all going to make mistakes in our games. Some of them are better than others. But we have to assume they are doing the best they can. And we have to hope the bad calls apply evenly to both teams. Other than that, don’t worry about them, and don’t complain. Just go out and play.