The Internet had a collective Howard Beale moment last night. You know, Peter Finch’s character in Network: “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.”
Everyone was up in arms about the absolute mockery the scab referees made out of Monday night’s Seattle vs. Green Bay game. It ended on what officials ruled was a Golden Tate touchdown reception as time expired.
The problem was that everyone else was pretty sure that Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings had intercepted the ball to end the game. Chaos ensued in the form of two officials standing next to each other — one signaling the end of the game on an interception, the other signaling a Seattle touchdown — as players on both teams scrummed for the ball. An official review of the play resulted in the touchdown call being upheld.
Then, after 10 minutes, they brought both teams back out of their locker rooms to kick a meaningless extra point. Twitter damn near broke under the weight of the ensuing tweets.
These refs, brought in because the NFL owners have locked out the regular referees, have absolutely no business stepping on the field to officiate NFL games.
The biggest problem here isn’t that the Packers were robbed at the end of the game. The problem is these refs, brought in because the NFL owners have locked out the regular referees over a dispute in pension compensation, have absolutely no business stepping on the field to officiate NFL games.
These refs are not the back-ups. These are not the top college refs that are getting called up to the big league. These are NAIA-level refs, high school refs, Lingerie freakin’ Football League refs. Actually, scratch that, some of these refs got fired from the Lingerie freakin’ Football League because they were, in the words of LFL’s press release last night, “not in line with our expectations.”
In three short weeks, the NFL has destroyed its credibility to the point that people now trust NBA refs to do better. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has tarnished “The Shield” (the one thing he’s been vehement about protecting) because NFL owners are locking out the normal refs over $3.3 million a year in differences over pension.
That’s 0.11 percent of the NFL’s annual TV revenue.
It doesn’t matter if you’re pro- or anti-union. If you’re pro-football, you have to be clamoring for Goodell to get the real refs back in the fold. And while last night’s game was terrible, it was not the only example of what a mess this whole season has been.
Refs have to command the respect of the coaches and players. They may be hated, but that have to be respected for the game to flow. Football is a sport dependent on rules, and when those rules are called inconsistently and poorly, then the game falls apart.
Watching Sunday’s match between New England and Baltimore, we were befuddled over the seemingly arbitrary manner in which penalties were being assessed. And as Cowboys fans saw against Tampa Bay, poor old Tony was nearly decapitated on several plays where he was hit in the head, and nothing was called.
Of course, from a fan’s perspective, the most egregious example of WTF came in week two against Seattle. Golden Tate (funny how he shows up again) delivered a vicious crack-back block against linebacker Sean Lee that leveled Lee and kept him on the bench for several minutes. The legality of the hit is debatable, but under Goodell’s discretion, the league’s increased emphasis on player safety certainly made it seem like a flaggable offense.
It doesn’t matter if you’re pro- or anti-union. If you’re pro-football, you have to be clamoring for Goodell to get the real refs back in the fold.
So when the flag came in at the end of the play, Seattle’s fans were apoplectic with what they considered an excessive penalty. Only thing was, the flag was on the Cowboys for a late hit out of bounds.
If you watched the video, don’t worry if you thought you missed the late hit. It was right there at the end of the play as Seattle QB Russell Wilson was guided out of bounds by the Cowboys player’s hands.
That was a penalty. Golden Tate’s hit that earned him a $21,000 fine from the league? That was all good.
You want to know how bad it has gotten? Clay Matthews, Green Bay’s linebacker, shared Roger Goodell’s phone number last night. Offensive guard T.J. Lang tweeted (caution: F-bombs abound) that the NFL had screwed the Packers and then followed it up by daring the league to fine him … and then use the money to pay the locked-out refs. Let’s check with the judges — yep, that’s a burn.
The players are actively taunting the league now, because they’re so mad they don’t even care. Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork looked like he was about to rip one of the refs in two after the Ravens won the game on a controversial field goal. It’s only a matter of time before a ref gets punched.
Although this public rage has damaged the NFL, nothing has been nearly as bad as what is happening in Vegas. Just off of the Seattle/Green Bay game, between $150 and $250 million worldwide shifted in bets because of the final play. Green Bay was favored at 3.5 points, which they would have covered had the interception been called an interception. Oops?
The league has no purpose, and, in the absence of logic, the games have no meaning. The madness has gone on too long, and the NFL needs to fix it, like, yesterday. When even ESPN is excoriating you over this, you know you’ve messed up.