September 19, 2012 by kujhawk
Watching the Monday Night Football game between the Broncos and Falcons earlier this week was – to put it mildly – a war of attrition for me. I have never seen so many things go wrong on the officiating end of the game. Calls were missed, balls were spotted wrong, player safety was being put in jeopardy and the officials had no control over the game or players.
As the game progressed, an analogy began to creep into my mind about what these replacement refs reminded me of – substitute teachers.
You remember when you walked into class and saw a new face at the front of the classroom. Your eyes lit up. You looked over to your best friend and smiled. You knew that that day in class you were going to have a great time. Maybe you would change seats or names with a friend for that day to confuse the teacher. Maybe you would tell the substitute that your teacher let you do certain things in class that she really didn’t let you do. Whatever it was, you did everything you could to take advantage of your substitute for that day. This is what we are witnessing so far this season in the NFL.
Players are doing whatever they want on the field. They are getting in the refs faces and telling them how the game should be officiated. More skirmishes are breaking out after plays, and sometimes those have escalated even further – like the one in Monday night’s game that delayed play for about 10 minutes.
It is not just fights that are dangerous for the game, flagrant personal foul penalties like helmet-to-helmet contact are not being called consistently, causing one former official to voice critical opinions of the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell.
“It’s obvious to me that (Goodell) just doesn’t even care. Otherwise, how could they replace professionalism with unprofessionalism in a game that’s so tough to work, even for the best officials in the land? How could he care about it?,” Jerry Markbreit, who refereed 23 NFL seasons before retiring in 1998, said Tuesday on ESPN 98.7 FM’s “The Mike Lupica Show.”
I have to agree with Markbreit. Did Goodell think he just pull a move straight out of the movie, “The Replacements?” Sorry Roger, but this isn’t Hollywood, Keanu Reeves cannot bail you out of this one. The reality is; these replacements will not cut it for the remainder of the season and you need to do something about this.
The labor dispute between the NFL and its officials has not been very publicized, but its impact is being felt more strongly with each passing week this season. Yes, it is not just the NFL’s fault that the dispute is going on, but you would have to think the officials demands of the league are not outrageous. They were locked out by the league in June after their contract expired, and now replacements are being used for the first time since 2001.
Not all has been bad, however. Some games have been played without any problems. But this past weekend, several questionable things happened on the field involving the replacements.
“When you look around at some of the calls being missed, player safety is the big issue,” New York Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said on Tuesday.
Hits like this one on Cowboys player Sean Lee need to be called consistently. Player
safety has become a high priority for the NFL in the past 10 years with new research on concussions and other health issues for football players being released and deaths related to brain trauma occurring to former players like Junior Seau.
“They [the NFL] don’t care about player safety in the case of bringing division III officials on, because it doesn’t affect the desire for the game [for fans],” hall of fame quarterback and ESPN analyst Steve Young said after Monday night’s game.
He has a point. Attendance has not fallen because of the replacement refs. Television ratings are still strong. It seems that nothing will hurt the unwavering fan bases in the NFL from watching their teams play on Sunday.
This doesn’t mean they won’t voice their own opinions about the officials. Social media was going crazy over the officiating in Monday’s game. Twitter has been a hotbed for discussion and criticism of the replacements.
According to Twitter, there were 680,000 tweets about the replacement refs in the past month. There have been 270,000 tweets about the refs in the first two weeks of the season, and about 75 percent of these were negative according to topsy.com, and in the past two weeks, Yahoo! searches for “NFL Referee Lockout” have risen by 175 percent.
Those are some staggering numbers, and they are making the NFL look bad. But Roger Goodell does not seem to care at this point, as there seems to be no end in sight for the refs labor dispute.
“I wish this thing would end,” Markbeit said in an ESPN.com article. “But, apparently the league doesn’t care about all of this horrible publicity.”
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