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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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NFL replacement refs: A matter of life and death?

Posted by James McPherson on September 25, 2012

I’m a Seattle Seahawks fan, but I don’t feel good about the results of last night’s “win” against the Green Bay Packers. Even if you’re not a football fan, you’ve no doubt heard that that officials blew the call–actually a couple of calls–on the final play of the game. Talking heads are going nuts about it, and not just on the sports channels. Even Paul Ryan used it to take a shot at Barack Obama today, while anti-union Gov. Scott Walker urged National Football League owners to give the regular union refs what they want.

On the other hand, the game had been officiated poorly throughout–had the officials not prolonged a Packer drive with two questionable calls, the Seahawks might have been ahead, anyway. Green Bay offensive guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sutton took to Twitter to blame the loss on the officials, but those two guys and their cohorts on the offensive line had managed to give up a near-record eight sacks in the first half. The replacement refs weren’t any more pitiful than the Packers’ pass blocking.

Still, fans and commentators are calling the officiating of NFL replacement refs (which goes beyond Monday night’s game) and the outcome of the game a tragedy. Abhorant. Appalling. Atrocious. Awful. Deplorable. Devastating. A disasterDisgusting. Dreadful. Hideous. Horrendous. HorrifyingInsane. MoronicPitiful. Stupid. Terrible. Unbelievable. Unfair.

Those people are understandably upset, but they’re also wrong. For better definitions of the words listed above, click on the links embedded in them. Then take a breath and count your blessings, if your life is secure enough that you can invest more emotion in a football game than in any of those issues (or many others that might have been included). Better yet, write a letter or a check that might help real victims–none of which played on Monday Night Football.

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17 Responses to “NFL replacement refs: A matter of life and death?”

  1. melfamy said

    Thanks for the reality check, football is just a game, after all.
    There was one football-related story that you could have linked to a word, such as sleazy, under-handed, vicious, etc.,
    and that was the story about the Saints players receiving bounties for injuring a player on the opposing team. Of course, you may have included it, I burned out on the awfulness of the situations in the links that you provided.

  2. William Gates said

    Not a matter of life or death but football is a lot of people’s livelihood. From the vendors, to the stadium workers, to the Vegas bettors that lost a lot of money on that bad call at the end of the game. Without the NFL, a lot of people are unemployed and that becomes emotional.

    With 32 teams worth approximately $1 billion dollars each, and them recently signing a $30 billion dollar TV contract, the NFL is a huge employer, I’d be hesitant to call it, “just a game”. It’s work for all those involved. With that being said, they should be committed to putting out the best product available, which at this point, I don’t think they are with replacement refs. Are they to the level of those words described above? No. But some have said that they were just “glorified high school refs” and admit their inexperience on that level. Just because Billy-Bob can build a darn good tree stand doesn’t mean he’s ready to build a 50 story skyscraper.

    With the economy being such a hot topic these days, we all know that consumer confidence is important. At this point, the NFL’s product quality is lacking, That will cause fans to lose confidence, as many players and coaches already have. This will just snowball into fans not showing up at games opting to watch them on TV. When the owners start losing money, action will be taken. Not until then though. But consumers (fans or gamblers) are losing confidence in the NFL’s product.

    So are the replacement refs bad? Yes. Are they as bad as some of the words in the article describe? No. But those words intention is to get attention. Just like when you see a topic saying, “Romney slams Obama on…… or “Obama blasts Romney on….. Bad calls are part of the game. That call on the hail mary was very bad.

    I count my blessings daily but for those blessed with the ability to play in the NFL it’s most of those guys livelihood. The average NFL player’s career only lasts a few years. When that “replacement ref” threw his hat on the field in the Cowboys/Bucs game, and the player slipped on it, he could have been seriously injured. Worst yet it could have been a career ending injury. That was at the least a careless act of officiating as no foul for the receiving running out of bounds (as the tossing of the hat is supposed to signify) had occurred. Even then, the hat is supposed to be placed at the spot that the player went out of bounds not on the playing field. Now that’s just stupid.

    So is it life or death for the one doing most of the screaming? Probably not. Should someone get emotional about their livelihood being jeopardized through careless acts? Absolutely.

  3. Strawman said

    Even as a lifetime Bears fan I felt sorry for the Cheeseheads for a whole day. That is saying something.

  4. James McPherson said

    Greg: Sorry about the burnout. I could have gone further, but was depressing myself, too. And speaking of bounties, perhaps you saw this disturbing story: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/pop-372556-warner-national.html

    William: “From the vendors, to the stadium workers, to the Vegas bettors that lost a lot of money on that bad call at the end of the game. Without the NFL, a lot of people are unemployed and that becomes emotional.”

    Perhaps so, but none of those people will lose their jobs because of the bad call (well, perhaps a compulsive gambler or two). And you could make the same argument about any business, legal or otherwise.

    Keep in mind, I am a football fan (and played college football for a couple of years), and I agree that the replacement refs are awful and that we should get the union refs back. But I don’t think the game/business deserves the prominence it gets in American life, especially considering how little we know about things that actually do get people killed.

    “Should someone get emotional about their livelihood being jeopardized through careless acts? Absolutely.”

    Agreed. Though of course a “real” ref actually has seriously injured someone: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1028914/index.htm

    Strawman: “Even as a lifetime Bears fan I felt sorry for the Cheeseheads for a whole day.”

    I couldn’t go quite that far. But then I have a Packer fan in the office next door to me, and one for a sister. 🙂

  5. William Gates said

    “From the vendors, to the stadium workers, to the Vegas bettors that lost a lot of money on that bad call at the end of the game. Without the NFL, a lot of people are unemployed and that becomes emotional.”

    That was actually in response to, “Thanks for the reality check, football is just a game, after all”.

    And yes, that ref that signaled TD should lose his job. Stevie Wonder even said it was first pass interference on Tate then the Packers intercepted. Or maybe that was Stevie who was the ref.

  6. I was chatting on this with a friend of mine from WI (My mom’s family is from there.) I read on this incident, but didn’t pay any mind as I could give a fat-rat’s tiddely-boomp to football.

    Truly, I do not understand this obsession that boys have with this silly sport. I can take it step-by-step if you’d like……

  7. James McPherson said

    “Stevie Wonder even said it was first pass interference on Tate then the Packers intercepted. Or maybe that was Stevie who was the ref.”

    🙂

    “I do not understand this obsession that boys have with this silly sport.”

    Though I’m a fan, I sometimes go an entire fall weekend without watching any part of a game, and rarely watch a full game. But I do find it more interesting than vampire movies, romance novels, computer games, ice fishing, Karaoke, Sudoku, or any of the “reality TV” that many Americans obsess over. Still, who can understand any obsession, unless they share it?

  8. Strawman said

    Agreed, I watch short clips of the game on the internet, Follow the results of the games, but to Pay hundreds of dollars to sit in a stadium seat or spend a whole day watching. Neither of these are going to happen.

    “I do not understand this obsession that boys have with this silly sport.”

    I know some girls that have this obsession also.

  9. Strawman, my sweet; those aren’t girls, they’re freaks of nature.

  10. jm said

    GOOD NEWS!

    The “real officials” are back!

    They officiated the Ravens/Brown game on Thursday.

    Ryan Rudnansky, bleacherreport.com, penned in his post: “NFL Referees Return with New-Found Admiration from Overjoyed Fans,” that: “the real officials received a standing ovation in Baltimore before the contest, believe it or not” LINK: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1350811-nfl-referees-return-with-newly-found-admiration-from-overjoyed-fans

    BTW, The Ravens won, 23-16!

    David Ginsberg posted in The Huffington Post:

    Joe Flacco went 28 for 46 for 356 yards, threw one touchdown and ran for another. Cary Williams returned an interception 63 yards for a score near the end of the third quarter to give the Ravens (3-1) a 13-point lead.

    And still, the game wasn’t decided until a pass by Cleveland rookie Brandon Weeden sailed out of the end zone as time expired. The kept the Browns (0-4) the only winless team in the AFC. ,/blockquote>

    LINK: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/27/ravens-browns-23-16-flacco-rice-baltimore_n_1921597.html?utm_hp_ref=sports

  11. melfamy said

    “From the vendors, to the stadium workers, to the Vegas bettors that lost a lot of money on that bad call at the end of the game. Without the NFL, a lot of people are unemployed and that becomes emotional.”

    Astrology employs a lot of people, too. But it would not break my heart if every astrologer, every numerologist, and all mediums suddenly found themselves out of work because Americans woke up to the silliness of it all.

    People’s loyalty to and affection for corporately-owned businesses with no reciprocating loyalty baffles me. The NFL changed the rules of ownership so that there will never be another fan-owned team such as the Packers.

  12. Strawman said

    JM; Did you know the Ravens were the Browns before they were the Ravens. The City Of Cleveland kept the name “Browns” when the team was moved to Baltimore. Then some other team moved to Cleveland and who know who is really who anymore. That old Cleveland stadium was the worst. No matter where you sat, you were behind a I beam and they didn’t move the seat from the baseball season so being on the 50 yard line was not good either. The lower rows were below the players on the side lines.

  13. “Astrology employs a lot of people, too. But it would not break my heart if every astrologer, every numerologist, and all mediums suddenly found themselves out of work because Americans woke up to the silliness of it all.”

    Now hold on one cotton-pickin minute, G. My sun is in Cancer, my moon is in Aquarius, and my Venus is in Gemini. I need an astrologist to tell me what the hello this means! I’m betting they can do this in less time than 32 football seconds, too! Yes, I’m sure they do stuff in real-life seconds!

  14. Strawman said

    OK now for the discussion of differing opinion on what James said about Governor Walker and his anti-Union comment. First of all most PUBLIC Unions are promises that can never funded. It was possible at first when the retirees were not living until they were 90. Most state have a balance budget amendment in place and raising taxes to pay for Public sector retirements and healthcare is not fair to the Private sector who usually work until they are in the mid 60’s. Asking the Public sector to donate to there own retirement and health care is fair. NFL Refs Union and State employee unions and saying Walker takes the side of Unions is a bit of a stretch, two different worlds. One runs off profit the other runs on tax revenues. At what point does the private sector say enough is enough on Fees, taxes, revenue, vender fees, license plates for hundreds of dollars every year to support and unfunded retirement program that is just not possible in maintain. Someone or something has to give and I don’t mean more taxes. Here is a list of Democrats that are doing the same thing that Walker is doing, but they seem to not be getting recalled. Mayor of Chicago Ra-hm Dead fish , Governor of New York And others. Now for California and that mess, Meltdown and the big money people have left and the Public Union promises are never never never ever going to be paid as promised. Unless President Obama gives them a bailout, which he seems to be quite generous these days with his free use of cash without any real budget in place. So to call Walker Anti-Union is not true, the truth is Democrats promises to many people to many things and expect and shrinking group of “Rich People” to pay for their mistakes.

  15. […] about the tangentially related issue of how much we value athletes and athletics over many, many more important aspects of life — has prompted me to avoid filling out a March Madness bracket for the first time in […]

  16. […] I’ve been more interested in the outcome of the game than in the advertising. As a longtime Seattle Seahawks fan, I was much happier with the result this year than when the Seahawks were robbed in […]

  17. […] Say what? Pro football is the most popular sport in America, with both viewers and gamblers, while professional boxing now barely hangs on. The National Football League’s championship game typically is the most-watched television program of the year, which is why companies this year paid an average of $4.5 million for 30 seconds of advertising. (Though GoDaddy has made more money from ads it supposedly couldn’t run than from ads it could.) We take football far more seriously than we do a lot of other far more important topics. […]

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