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The Horror – And the Glory – Of Replacement Referees

TAGs: Barack Obama, jerry glanville, lance easley, lingerie football league, NFL, paul ryan, Twitter

NFL replacement referees“Stop it. This is hard.” – Ann Romney, wife of US GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, complaining recently about criticism of her husband’s campaign.

It is hard. I’ve been an official in Little League baseball and youth league basketball. At that ridiculously amateur level, it is hard. And I realize there is a substantial difference between judging possession of a football between a pair of 225-pound athletic freaks and judging possession of a basketball when two nine-year-old spazzes run headfirst into each other at half-court. But my games didn’t have instant replay, and unlike the NFL, there were only a few thousand dollars bet on the game. (It’s the only possible way to get through an hour of watching fourth-graders play basketball.)

Still, I saw parents of children who didn’t have a chance of making the varsity in middle school yell audible curses at a missed call by a fourteen-year old ref. At the NFL level, with this absolute travesty going on, I can’t imagine the emotions, because, at the NFL level, referees, and calls, matter. I wouldn’t blame Aaron Rodgers if he showed up at a press conference tomorrow holding the severed head of a replacement ref by the hair like some medieval warrior. Considering the current mentality of the NFL fan, he’d probably get some new endorsement deals and be elected the next Senator from Wisconsin. You know the Twittersphere would love it. #replacementhead

“This isn’t college…This is the NFL, which stands for “Not For Long” if you keep making horseshit calls like that one.” – Jerry Glanville, former coach of the Houston Oilers, to a referee in 1988.

It’s not college…but Lance Easley, who ruled the catch by Seattle’s Golden Tate a touchdown, hasn’t refereed there, either. According to the New York Daily News, Easley’s entire officiating experience consists of working high school and junior college games. Do I blame Easley? Of course not – the blame lies with the NFL. What kind of business lets someone with a modicum of experience in junior college onto a crew at the highest level of a professonal sport? Would an airline hire a pilot who’d spent three hours in a simulator? Would a popular, industry-leading gambling news website hire a stand-up comedian with no college degree to write a weekly column on the stock market? (Bad example.)

In the same article, the News reported that one NFL crew had previously been fired for incompetence by the Lingerie Football League. It’s not clear whether Easley was a member of that crew, but, for my money, the LFL is actually the type of experience professional referees need. What better prepares you for making the right call in front of 75,000 screaming, hostile fans than the embarrassment of having to hold both arms high to signal “touchdown” while your dick is popping out of your shorts?

Unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s no longer true that the NFL stands for “Not For Long,” as the replacement refs will be here for a long time. Indeed, it looks like it could be months before NFL stands for “No Freaking Lockout,” either. And should the next egregious call give the game to the team backed by the public – according to reports, 70-80% of bets were on the Packers to cover a 3.5-point spread – it’s likely NFL might, in Vegas sportsbooks, come to mean “No Fucking Line.”

“The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.” – NFL statement released Tuesday, September 25

The NFL Officiating Department also thinks Battleship was a damn fine movie and can’t, for the life of them, figure out why Rick Perry isn’t leading the presidential race.

This is really the biggest insult of the whole thing. Using replacement referees so America’s super-rich can save a million or two each? We get that. We want it ended, but on some level we can understand. Americans are used to rich assholes doing shitty things to everybody else for a couple of extra bucks; nearly half of us want to elect one of them as the next President.

But don’t lie to us. Don’t insult our intelligence. It’s there on film. Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings controls the ball, Golden Tate’s arm comes off the ball…read the rulebook, end of story. If these officials are being truthful, I want them there the next time I go on a bender so they can tell me, “No, Vince, you were perfectly polite to the big-breasted waitress. We reviewed the situation and it was her fault for getting so sensitive when you grabbed her ass and told her to sit on your lap. And everybody at the bar loved what you had to say. They only threw you out so other people could enjoy you too.”

“NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs’ lockout is settled soon.” – Tweet from @barackobama, Twitter account of the President of the United States.

There is a silver lining to this, as President Barack Obama noted. The replacement refs have brought America together. Both Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan criticized the referees on Tuesday, a watershed moment in recent American politics. Our two parties can’t agree on what color blue is; to see Obama and Ryan agree on anything six weeks from Election Day shows true promise for this great country. Now all Americans, Republican and Democrat, black and white, casino operators and fire-breathing, Bible-thumping, sin-spotting Christian fundamentalists can come together in harmonious unity to wish that the replacement refs would be locked in a shipping container full of broken glass and set on fire.

Perhaps the even more amazing accomplishment is that the NFL has made its fans appreciate, even love its referees. Realize this: when the referees return, and run out onto the field before their first game back, they will most likely get a standing ovation. We will cheer for the real referees, we will turn to one another in the crowd and say, “Thank God they’re back!” And then three minutes into the game the side judge will make a pass interference call on our defense and we will boo the ever-loving shit out of him, and yell, “You dumb shit, get your eyes checked,” and we will smile, because life is back to normal.

But until then, we are a unified country; an amazing accomplishment in this day of age. Perhaps we should send Roger Goodell to the Middle East. Yes, let’s send that son of a bitch there right now.

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