Random Sports Rant: The Replacements – My Take on the Current State of Officiating in the NFL
Note: Although an agreement was reached on September 26, 2012 (see NFL’s update here), I still wanted to post this as it was my immediate reaction after watching the most recent Monday Night Football game.
I know that this is generally a blog about fashion, family, dining and music. But if you are a regular reader of this blog, I have mentioned on many occasions how much of a sports fanatic I am, especially of American football and soccer. Because of what has transpired in these first weeks of the season, I have to comment on the state of my beloved sport of football.
This week, I watched a game that to me, should signal a turning point in this lockout of the regular officials. To kind of give a brief overview for those of you who are not up to speed with football news, the regular officials (referees) are not currently officiating this season’s regular NFL games due to a lockout imposed by team owners after their contracts expired in June of this year. Basically, the team owners are locking out the referees by not agreeing to a contract. To ensure that the football season continues, replacement referees have been put in place to officiate, while the contract negotiations are taking place. I thought that these officials would be higher level college referees, but I realized that the college football season coincides with professional football season, so those refs are actually tied up already. I’m not exactly sure how these replacement referees are hired and where they come from.
In the beginning, it didn’t seem so bad because they seemed to put their “best” refs forward during the opening game on September 5th, 2012. But it has become apparent in these last couple of weeks that the replacement officials clearly are not handling the pressure of the speed of play. Not only that, but I’m sensing that players are testing their boundaries with making blatant pass interferences, late hits and unnecessary roughness penalties that we as fans see, but not all of the officials are paying attention to. Were all of the refs really looking at that holding penalty instead of that helmet-to-helmet contact that received no flag, but resulted in a fine?
This Monday night’s game on September 24th, 2012 between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers was just more exposure on a national level of what we have been seeing all season. In addition to the missed and incorrect penalties, we’re also seeing a loss of control of the game by the replacement officials. I see these officials as being scared out of their minds to make a bad call, so they make no call. This was apparent in the final call of the game where Seattle was on the offense and quarterback, Russell Wilson, threw a “Hail Mary”. As you can seein the picture above, one official signaled touchdown, but the other signaled that it was not a touchdown. To me, it was clearly an interception as the defender, safety M.D. Jennings, had control of the ball in the air and when his two feet touched the ground in the end-zone, although receiver Golden Tate, looked as if he also had the ball. The ruling on the field was a touchdown, resulting in the Seahawks winning 13-12. Thinking this was the final outcome, both teams left the field, including the officials. To finish the game, Seattle should have kicked for the extra point, but no one was around to do it. Eventually, each team had to get 11 men on the field to run the final play. Finally, the game was over and the resulting score was Seahawks 14 and Packers 12. Kudos to Green Bay for stepping up and being a class act for sending 11 men out there, which was something I’m sure I couldn’t have convinced myself to do. In a statement that was released on Tuesday September 25th, 2012, the NFL supported the decision to not overturn the touchdown due to the simultaneous catch rule (the decision goes to the offensive player), and the Seahawks remained the victors (read statement here).
As the NFL commissioner and chief executive officer, Roger Goodell should step in and bring these talks to a head and demand a decision. Something needs to give, not just for those of us who love the game, but for the health, safety and sanity of the coaches and players. I cannot watch football like this any longer. As a San Diego Chargers fan, each game with my home team is emotional because I want my team to win. Once my own team game is finished, I can sit back and watch other games, simply because I enjoy watching football. Right now, I can’t even stand to watch a regular game, let alone my own home team’s games because it’s absolutely painful.
I usually enjoy fall because watching football and learning the game is how I got incredibly close to my father growing up. We knew Sunday was football day and we would have the tellys blaring games all day, or we would even attend a game locally (one of the best reasons to live in a town with a local team). Before he passed, we would discuss each game and make our picks for random office football pools. Now, I’m married to a man who loves the game equally and I get to continue my tradition each year with him and soon with our son. But in all of the years that I’ve grown up watching this sport, this is the worst that I’ve seen as a spectator. Even when the Chargers were 1-15, I still watched faithfully. After Green Bay was robbed of a win this week, I’m not sure that I can stomach watching bad call after bad call. It’s like watching a crime in progress: you know it’s wrong, but you can’t do anything about it.
This rant is not a gripe against the replacement referees because they are probably doing the best they can under the circumstances. My gripe is against the league, specifically the owners and Goodell. I have been watching the game of football since I was eleven. The game that solidified me as a lifelong fan was the Epic in Miami where my Chargers rallied to beat the Miami Dolphins in an all out play-to-win-at-any-cost game that got them to the AFC Championship (where they lost against the Bengals in the Freezer Bowl). That’s where I saw heart, tenacity, endurance and players truly playing a full game of football, no holds barred in the face of exhaustion and pain. I have watched games here in San Diego, but I have traveled to other cities and countries for the love of the game (Pittsburgh and London). It is this deep appreciation for the game that makes watching this season so painful. I feel insulted that the NFL could think for a second that we could just sit back and accept that this is how it’s going to be, and that the decisions these replacement referees are making are as sound as the decisions made by Ed Hochuli or Mike Carey. No, you will never get me to accept that, especially after this last Monday Night Football game.
Although I’ve said on Facebook and Twitter that I would stop watching football the rest of this season while these replacement refs are still there, I know I’ll still watch because I love the game too much. Believe me, this is inner tourmoil for any sports fan. It is because of my love of football, I’m begging all parties to get these negotiations under wraps and come to a decision. Please.
(Top photo courtesy of Policymic.com)