Here’s the scenario. It’s the final minutes of the Eagles—Ravens game on Sunday on September 16. Haloti Ngata strips the ball from Michael Vick at the goal line. As the play stood, the game was over, Baltimore wins and goes to 2-0. However, the replacement officials overturned the call after a challenge, ruling that the ball was moving forward, leading to an incomplete pass.
The announcers of the game were in disbelief, as were the fans and players. With the standard officials in the game, a play like this would certainly not have been overturned. There just wasn’t enough evidence.
So the Eagles retained possession of the ball, and Mike Vick finished off the drive with a touchdown to win the game.
Now it is only the fourth week, and the games are not nearly as meaningful as they will be closer to the end of the season, but you would think that officials of the highest level of sports would get the call right, especially after review.
Long time Ravens linebacker, Ray Lewis, certainly had a few things to say about the officiating in a post game interview with WNST.net claiming, “We have to correct that (officiating). There are some serious calls the refs have missed. It’s just the way it is. All around the league.”
He went on to say, “the time is now, teams and the league are being affected by it. If they want the league to have the same reputation that they have always had, address the problem. Get the regular refs in here, and let the games play themselves out. We already have controversy with the regular refs calling the plays! We should address it.”
Obviously upset with the outcome of the game, his distress was absolutely justifiable. There is no reason for this problem to have existed! And, thank God, it has been figured out, and we’re getting the professionals back on the field.
But lets get down to the whole reasoning behind the referee lockout. According to NFL.com, “The referees have been looking to retain their pension plan, while the NFL’s demand has been to change it to a 401(k) retirement plan. Arnold said the union offered a compromise that would grandfather in the existing officials’ pension plans and have new officials receive the 401(k) plan.” It is also rumored that it would cost each team an extra $6,000 per year to get the officials paid properly. To me, a broke college student, that’s a lot of money. For the multi-millionaire owners of each team, it isn’t. It is a fixable problem that is not being addressed. At least NFL great and current ESPN broadcaster, Steve Young doesn’t think so.
“Everything about the NFL right now, its inelastic for demand. There’s nothing that they can do to hurt the demand for the game. So the bottom line is, they don’t care. Player safety: doesn’t matter in this case. Bringing in Division III (college) officials: doesn’t matter. Because in the end you’re still gonna watch the game.” He’s saying the League higher-ups wanted to prove a point to the Official’s Union that the league doesn’t need their expertise.
But in fact, it does.
In the Falcons, Broncos game on Monday Night, a fumble and the ensuing fight displayed perfectly the replacement refs lack of control over the game. But it isn’t always the most egregious of errors that are frustrating everyone. It’s annoying and frankly, weird stuff that going on in the games that is ruining the perception of the NFL. Players are expressing all sorts of comments and ridiculous stories from games. Eagles Running Back LeSean McCoy told a Philadelphia Radio station that one of the refs told him to play better because he needed him for his fantasy team. What!? On August 10, in the Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins preseason game, the refs ruled a punt a touchback despite it being downed at the 4-yard line. It’s 16 extra yards in a preseason game; does it really matter? Probably not, but the whole thing is getting a little out of control.
The ending of the Monday Night Packers Seahawks was the most controversial call yet. In a Hail-Mary heave in the final seconds, the Seahawks quarterback launched a pass to the end zone. The Packers cornerback clearly intercepted the pass, but receiver Golden Tate put a hand on the ball spurring the officials to call the play a game-winning touchdown. The call was absolutely brutal and after further review, somehow the play stayed. Even as a Bears fan, that is hard to watch.
All referees are human, and even the professionals make mistakes. It happened in the NBA finals when LeBron James got away with a shove on Kevin Durant that altered his potential game winning shot, ultimately changing the outcome of the NBA finals. It happened in baseball, when umpire Jim Joyce botched an obvious call that prevented Detroit Tigers Pitcher, Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. So mistakes do happen, and they can be game changing. But the NFL replacement refs are a giant step beyond that. It’s every game, every team, multiple times per game, and there was no excuse.
I think Vikings Punter Chris Kluwe said it best, when he tweeted, that the NFL needs to “kiss and make up with the refs” and that, “these replacements are horrible. Frankly, it’s kind of embarrassing.” It took long enough, but its great to see that the real officials will be back on the field come Sunday.