Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We Are All Replacement Refs



Awesome photograph. This picture perfectly encapsulates where we are as a nation in 2012. Two overwhelmed people looking at the same event, the same set of facts, and coming to wildly different conclusions.

Last night, the final play of the Packers-Seahawks game came down to this photograph. The splendid rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson, lofted a last second, Hail Mary towards the corner of the end zone with no time on the clock and his team down 12-7. The intended receiver, Golden Tate shoves a defender in the back just before leaping in the air to catch the ball. However, the football lands in the waiting hands not of Tate, but of Packers safety M.D. Jennings. They tumble to the ground and these two replacement officials, standing directly over the pile of players make their calls simultaneously...one ref signals touchdown, the other a touch back. Replays seemed to show rather conclusively that Jennings had, in fact, intercepted Wilson's pass. But after a 10 minute delay, the terrified referee touched the button on his microphone and told a deliriously happy home crowd that the horrible call he had just made would stand. End of game, but not the end  of story.

The twitter universe that I am contemplating joining went apoplectic with rage and indignation. The replacement officials were making a mockery of the game, Roger Goddell should be executed, this was the biggest miscarriage of justice since the acquittal of OJ Simpson, these Division II referees were totally overwhelmed by the speed of the professional game, completely out of their depth and had lost control of the game. Actually, I feel for these guys...because everyday that I wake up and go to work and try to live my modern life, I feel an awful lot like a replacement ref.

I often feel overwhelmed with the speed of life in 2012. I too, feel completely out of my depth, and everyday it's a struggle to maintain control of my slice of the world. Replacement officials...I feel your pain. One minute, you're a perfectly happy and contented Division II referee getting psyched up for the big Randolph Macon v. Hampden Sydney tilt coming up in Ashland next Saturday. Suddenly, you get a call from some really nice man from the NFL asking you if you would be interested in becoming a referee at the highest level of the game. It would be great and you would be doing the NFL a big favor, says the nice man. Plus, they promise to pay you ten grand per game! It's a dream come true, the opportunity of a life time. The next thing you know, you're standing over a pile of yellow and blue uniforms with 65,000 intoxicated, fanatical lunatics screaming their lungs out at you with the outcome of a game hanging on your decision. For a slow-motion instant, silent and dreamlike, you're back in Ashland throwing a flag on the Yellow Jackets for having too many men on the field. You wonder what you possibly could have been thinking when you said "yes" to that nice man from the NFL.

Did the refs blow the call last night? Yes. Did they call too many penalties during the game? Yes. Will the fiasco at the end of the game distract from the amazing grit and determination of a rookie QB driving his team to victory in just his third NFL start? Unfortunately, yes. Do these replacements deserve all the blame for the horrible situation in which they find themselves? No, no...a thousand times ..NO! Mr. Goddell, pay the real refs, and stop being the story. The players, and the fans deserve better.