Archive for the ‘Replacement Refs’ Category

This wasn’t breakage in the Jesse Pinkman sense of the word. There was no loss here for some kind of greater gain, if that was possible. There was no sympathy, and no understanding. There was only angst, with the acknowledgement that the eventuality we all knew was coming had arrived, and the NFL’s replacement officials had run their natural course.

We knew a meaningful game would be butchered as Ed Hochuli sipped his chardonnay while doing power squats in a distant living room, and there would be serious implications for the standings, for the playoffs, for homefield advantage, for everything. So here we are during the morning after the botched call which awarded the Seahawks a tainted victory, and introduced the Packers to the 13th man.

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You know, the crappiness of the replacement officials and the relative girth of the average NFL game that can’t be completed in less than 3.5 hours is all making sense now. While we’ve been told that many of the replacement officials have full-time jobs as high school geography teachers and during their spare time they watch young women run around in lingerie, Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes is convinced that the NFL went shopping one day, and found some really nice dudes in a store wearing black and white stripes.

It was convenient, and it was meant to be.

That was, of course, received quite well on Twitter. Haters enjoy hating, and Spikes responded to one with a genuine query.

If I was eligible to be a replacement ref, on the inside I would absolutely be cheering for every player on my teams. But eventually that would lead to a difficult situation if I was working one of the late or primetime games, and I needed one of my studs to be stud-like. That’s when at some point the mental wall would crumble, and I’d pull Michael Vick aside and tell him to stop being a scared little man, and run dammit.

I’m not remotely qualified, which is why I’m not a replacement official. But I am a fanboy and just a normal dude who likes football, which means I have a lot in common with the scabs, and specifically one replacement ref who really needed LeSean McCoy to be awesome on Sunday.

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The word “likely” was inserted into that headline out of clinging, desperate, misguided optimism. When it comes to replacement officials, we’re sort of like the pimple-faced 16-year-old who screams in terror and calls his local Internet provider while watching Kate Upton cut her shirt in half, hoping against hope that his connection returns upon the 18th viewing.

But alas, it seems that for both those whose pubescent urges are uncontrollable and those who seek competent officiating in their NFL games, hope is fleeting, and fading. That’s odd, because I’ve never once concluded that those two groups would have something in common.

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The replacement officials will screw up. They’ll look bad at times, and they’re going to make you really angry. Maybe they’ll do it a little more than the regular refs (more on that in a minute), but still, fans hating referees is a sacred tradition that’s existed ever since it was determined that officials of some kind are needed to enforce rules during organized sporting events.

So go ahead, be mad when the replacement officials blow a call. Be really, really mad. Just don’t be surprised. Naturally, replacement refs won’t be as good as the regular refs, because if they were then they ‘d be regular refs. And since the replacement refs aren’t even coming from major college conferences, the step down in some cases may be significant, with some zebras plucked from leagues where clothing is nearly optional.

None of this is news, or a new development, as we’ve known for quite some time that if replacement refs were used in games, they’ll probably suck. But while we know where most of these officials came from (the lower tiers of college football, or the arena league, or retirement), how exactly did they become available to work NFL games right now, and potentially during the season? Was there a fallout of some kind with their previous employer?

In a series of tweets last night, CBS’ Mike Freeman answered those questions with a few damning examples of incompetence and misconduct among the current scabs.

The first one involved a disgraced former teacher:

One of the replacement refs, a line judge working a game tonight, was fired from his job as a teacher after it was discovered he sent letters that contained scrawled threats and racist hate messages to co-workers. It was determined this line judge actually sent the racist cards to himself and others, so he could be transferred. Eventually, the school used a handwriting expert to determine the teacher wrote the notes, according to a published report.

Meh. Participating in an organized poker tournament five years ago is still way worse. It’s not even close.

While sending racist threats and hate mail to facilitate your own firing definitely shows a major character flaw — you know, the kind in which you’re a complete asshole — it may not have any bearing on an official’s ability to make the correct calls on a football field.

OK, fair enough. But this does:

A second replacement official was at the center of what is considered one of the worst officiated Pac-10 games in that league’s history. USC-Stanford game in 2010. Late in the game, USC ahead. Close game. Official, now a replacement ref, forgot to start the clock. This allowed Stanford to get ball back sooner than it should have and they won the game. Writers covering the contest called it one of the worst officiated games they had ever seen.

So yeah, there’s that. Brutal.

Call this rumor mongering if you want, but through one full night of preseason play the scabs haven’t done themselves many favors. There was a particularly glaring error in the Bills-Redskins game that unnecessarily cost Buffalo a challenge.

From NFL.com:

With 3:50 remaining in the first quarter, Bills punter Brian Moorman hit a 49-yard punt that was down by Ruvell Martin at the 4-yard line. Back judge Craig Burd saw it differently, ruling the play a touchback.

The ball was marched to the 20 as the crowd in Orchard Park rained boos down on the field. The local Bills telecast captured Moorman screaming at a side judge.

Bills coach Chan Gailey challenged the play moments before the Redskins were able to run another play. The call was overturned.

It’s preseason, so this mistake didn’t matter, because nothing really matters in preseason games. But during the regular season when every timeout and every challenge is vital and guarded like gold, there’s the potential that a slip of this nature could be a game-altering one.

The locked out officials know that, which is why they’re chillin’, smiling, and collecting their leverage one day at a time.

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Rules of any kind have a clearly defined purpose, and if there was a justifiable reason to regularly turn your eyes in a different direction when a rule is violated, then it simply wouldn’t exist anymore. It would vanish, and become obsolete.

That’s a general rule about rules. But the truth is that common sense can often trump a lot of rules. And that’s why a replacement referee’s participation in a very organized and very well-known poker event five years ago shouldn’t matter. At all.

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Like most kids, I was filled with a sense of reckless abandon when I first learned that my class would have a supply teacher for the day because our normal overlord was sick, or abducted, or something. That’s partly because I was eight, and the greatest thing in my life at the time were two tiny mice who were trying to take over the world, and turtles who took orders from a rat. For some reason, rodents dominated my thoughts as a child, and I’m sure if you had the required psychological expertise and put me in a room filled with rubber, you’d find a correlation between that thought pattern and my current occupation.

ANYWHO, for young elementary school students, the substitute teacher is an instant best friend. They love you, because although they’re aware that they’re supposed to hate you, they’re not sure why yet. Therefore, when they’re surrounded by a raving gaggle of tiny children who are armed with reinforced snowsuits during the winter months, their firmly-embedded instinct is to manage the anarchy, and wait until the clock reaches the closing hour. Theirs is a chaos that’s merely controlled.

Until an agreement is reached between the NFL and its regular officials, replacement referees will be the players’ substitute teachers. There will be missed calls and rules explanations that equal the length of The Dark Knight Rises, so in that way they’ll be exactly like normal officials.

They will also be refs whose opportunity for advancement has closed, so in that way they won’t come close to equaling the competence of the league’s normal zebras, and they won’t have the same ability to keep up with the speed of the game and watch over the players’ safety.

But there’s a serious confidence builder that at least one scab holds over his regular counterparts. He’s seen a girl naked, or almost naked.

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