The sports airwaves, publications, and blogosphere have all been abuzz this week about the blown call in the Green Bay/Seattle Monday Night Football game and the generally abysmal state of the replacement refs. In case you’ve been living in a cave, or have a real life, the NFL refs are on strike and they are using scabs who, prior to this gig, were last seen reffing the high school powderpuff game on Friday night. I have largely ignored all this banter. ESPN has to fill about 23 hours a day with sports chatter so this kind of stuff is going to get a lot of coverage there. Likewise, CNN has to figure out something to do with the 30 minutes per day they aren’t fellating the Obama campaign so why not harp on the replacement refs. But, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the op-ed piece in today’s Wall Street Journal by none other than former NFL great Fran Tarkenton. Now that a reputable newspaper is taking column space away from important topics like the financial markets, I must object. And, what got to me most was the subtitle to Tark’s column, stating that the replacement refs were “harming the integrity of the NFL.” Time to rant.
The INTEGRITY OF THE NFL? Seriously? Bad officiating by the replacements is challenging the integrity of the NFL? Sure, in the same way that the integrity of the WWF was harmed when Jerry Lawlor bashed Jimmy “Super Fly” Snooka over the head with a chair and smushed his head into the turnbuckle while the “referee” stood and watched helplessly.
Have any of these people screaming about the replacement refs watched even a single NFL game in the past 10 years? Have you watched the senile part-time shoe salesmen trot out there Sunday after Sunday and make horrible calls, miss the obvious on replay, and change the outcome of games? Hey whiney Green Bay fans, let’s rewind the clock to 2005, dateline Redskins vs. Packers. Less than a minute left in the game and Skins trailing by 2 or 3 points. Mark Brunell (believe it or not) hit Clinton Portis down the seam for the go-ahead touchdown. Skins fans erupt as the PAT will put them up by more than a field goal, essentially locking up the game. But wait, it’s called back for illegal motion on James Thrash. Only problem is Thrash never moved. The TV shows the replay over and over. Thrash gets set then is completely still. Not so much as a twitch. The announcers are baffled. It’s not a blown call – a blown call is when the official doesn’t see something or calls it incorrectly. That penalty was completely fabricated. Game simply awarded to Green Bay by the refs.
Later the next year, the Skins and Dallas are playing a tight MNF game. The Cowboys QB throws a lob into the end zone at the end of the first half and the Skins defensive back is tackled from behind. Flag is thrown, but wait, pass interference on Washington. Naturally this gives Dallas a free play before the end of the half at the 1 and they cash in on their free touchdown. In the final score Skins lost by 3 in a game the Cowboys are awarded 50+ free yards on a Hail Mary. Game simply awarded to Cowboys.
Lest you think I’m just a partisan Skins fan (note: I am and it is well documented that the league instructs the refs to make bad calls against us and, yes, I am 100% serious), remember the Giants/49ers playoff game in 2003. The Giants were up by 24 in the 2nd half, but the Niners came back to take the lead. The Giants had a shot at a last minute field goal for the win. The snap was bad so it turned into a pass play. A lineman who had reported in as an eligible receiver went downfield and was taken down for pass interference. First down Giants and a sure win. But, wait, the refs called illegal man downfield. Just wrong and the Giants are out of the playoffs (OK, that does make me happy).
About 3 months after that Giants/Niners game, I was in the elevator in my building in Tysons Corner, riding up with a guy I’d seen in the building many times. Only this time he’s wearing a friggin’ super bowl ring. I ask him if he bought it on eBay (was there an eBay yet). He replies, “No, I’m an NFL referee.” Turns out he’s the dude who blew the call in the huge comeback Giants/Niners playoff game on the field goal try. So, the dude changes the outcome of the entire playoffs and gets a ring for it. Nice job! Shouldn’t he be in remedial referee training, not back selling insurance in Tysons.
I’ve gone on too long on this trivial topic. But, lest the key point be lost, the full time refs suck. Their calls are random. They often get it wrong even on replay, even when both announcers see exactly what we see at home. They are part-time shoe salesmen and insurance agents. And, they are paid by the league to screw the Redskins. I think what’s happening now is that fans of all the other teams, who have had all the bad calls go their way for decades are finally seeing what it feels like. It’s about time. Let’s keep these guys. At least the bad calls are evenly distributed for once.
End of rant.