Pro Football Isn't Complete Without Professional Refs

Replacement Refs

After four weeks of pre-season games and three weeks of the official 2012 National Football League season, it was painfully obvious that fans were paying for a second-rate product. Some sustained outrage, though, after last Monday night’s nationally televised game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks finally spurred NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners to reach an agreement with the Referees Association.

Sure, the professionalism of the athletes on the field wasn’t in question. 
Nor were the leadership and guidance of the head coaches, their
coordinators and their assistant coaches, even if one might disagree at times
with game-day strategic decisions.

What was painfully sub-standard was the level of competency of the bargain-basement officials who had replaced the top flight of professional referees who blow the whistles and make the critical umpiring decisions that often can shape the outcome of a game.

Actually, replacement refs indeed were crucial for the final score in several NFL contests in the first three weeks of the season, just not in the fashion that one expects of professional football referees.  The ongoing dispute between the regular referees and the NFL, which is led by Commissioner Roger
Goodell, finally reached a settlement Wednesday night after two days of intense
contract talks that could have occurred three months ago.

The Rams were victimized by poor and indecisive officiating as much as other teams in the league.  As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and NBC Sports told me on The E-Mak Show on KXFN on Thursday morning, the Monday Night
Football game became the catalyst for seeking a resolution to this contentious
labor dispute.  In the game at Seattle between the Seahawks and the visiting Packers, a game-ending touchdown enabled Seattle to topple the Packers.

There were problems, however, with the final play. Seattle’s wide receiver Golden Tate blatantly pushed away a Packers defender to make his game-ending catch. 
If, that is, you assume that another Packers player, defensive back M.D.
Jennings, did not intercept the pass. Both players battled for control of the ball as time expired, and replays seemed to indicate that Jennings had possession.  As Florio told me, Jennings was the first player to have full control of the ball which, by league rules, entitled him to possession and therefore Green Bay to a victory.

Here’s where a key problem with the replacement refs came in.  The surrogate
refs looked intimidated and overwhelmed from the start with boisterous
home-field crowds, as they also appeared to be by the menacing men who roam the fields in these modern-day gladiatorial bouts.

So, if you were a fill-in ref and not at all certain what call to make, what were you likely to do?  Agree with the rowdy home-town fans, naturally.  That led to results such as Monday night’s snatching of victory by the Seahawks from the road team Packers.

Additionally, the replacement refs often were reluctant to call penalties on players, such as Tate’s flagrant violation cited above.  That led to near-anarchy on
the field, since players knew that the police squad had weapons loaded with
blanks instead of real ammunition.

Now, Goodell and the owners he represented in this mess hope to get back in the good graces of the paying customers who fill their stadiums and parking lots and pay extortionist prices for their concessions.  They’ve belatedly
reached an agreement with the referees’ union only because of the unified
outcry by coaches, players and fans throughout the league.

Because of its greedy impulses, the NFL has taken a well-deserved beating with its reputation.  At least, though, the games going forward
this season will be officiated by true professionals.

Evan Makovsky

Weekdays 6AM-9AM Central
KXFN 1380 AM St. Louis, MO


"Like" the E-Mak Show on Facebook!


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