If I had my way every Sunday night, I’d spend it watching football.
I had my way this past Sunday, enjoying the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots. The tilt, despite featuring two of the best teams in the league, was largely overshadowed by the replacement referees.
Sunday night’s game was one that Chris Collinsworth described afterward as “the MMA and NFL mixed into one.” The most controversial moment of the game didn’t occur until the very last play, when the Ravens lined up to attempt a game winning chip-shot of a field goal. After a night of everything going wrong — including Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh getting penalized for trying to use a timeout — surely the officials would get the call right on a field goal.
Instead, rookie Justin Tucker booted it directly over the right upright, leaving the officials dumbfounded. The officials deemed the kick as good, and the Ravens defeated the Patriots, 31-30. All the officials had to do next was outrun Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick as he chased them down, and they were in the clear.
The NFL, however, is not.
Because the NFL is stuck in a labor disagreement with the NFL Referee Association regarding salary and pension issues, it decided to employ collegiate Division III referees to take over the officiating while the NFL negotiates with the NFLRA.
The NFL claimed that the replacements would be up to par by the time the regular season started; however, it has become clear that the replacements aren’t up to the task.
One of the biggest complaints has been directed at how long it takes these new officials to reach a decision, highlighted by last Monday night’s game that lasted over four hours. Another qualm is that the game moves too fast for these guys.
However, the fault does not lie with the replacements. You don’t force your five-year-old son to cook you dinner and then get mad when he burns the food. Instead, the criticism should be directed squarely at the NFL and head honcho Roger Goodell.
The current referee situation has proven the NFL likes to pretend that it truly cares about the integrity of the game.
It doesn’t. The NFL’s only goal is to make money or to sell tickets.
“The bottom line is they don’t care,” ESPN analyst Steve Young said after the September 17th game between the Broncos and Falcons. “Player safety doesn’t matter in this case… If it affected the desire for the game, they’d come up with a few million dollars.”
In essence, the only way to force the NFL to actually care about the refereeing crisis is to stop tuning in every Sunday.
Unfortunately, just like the millions of others who suffer withdrawals from March to September, I am addicted to the NFL. Regardless of who is officiating next week, I still plan on tuning in to Sunday Night Football.
“In the end you’re still going to watch the game,” Young said. “Go ahead, gripe all you want. I’m going to rest. Let them eat cake.”
I hate to say it, but Steve’s right: Let them eat cake.
Contact Sean Wagner-McGough at [email protected]
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