The NFL has not started a regular season with replacement referees since 2001, and that’s exactly what it appears they are going to do this year.
Negotiations broke down on Saturday, a story mostly lost amongst the fervor of the opening weekend of college football. There have been some weird calls this preseason, including a touchback being called on a ball obviously downed on the ten yard line in a contest featuring the Redskins and Bills. It is obvious that these officials are not the same quality as the ones we are accustomed to, and if they miss a big call in a big spot it will be a black eye for the league. But I’m here to try to calm your rage, at least a fraction of it.
If you were to construct a pie graph that divided up all of a football fan’s activities during a game, there would be an adequate slice dedicated to “complaining about the refs”. It’s something we all do, and it can’t be helped. Even when we aren’t watching our favorite team, there is an inherent bias we have with every game. Two people, two very intelligent people, can watch the same exact play and deduce two completely different things. This was true with the regular officials, and it will be true with the replacement officials. So the first time you call for the scabs to be taken out back and shot, ask yourself: is this because they aren’t the regular refs, or is this because we’re all a bunch of asshole football fans?
The NFL screwed up here, because they can’t win. Over the span of a few weeks, even an expert crew of officials will make one mistake. It doesn’t even have to be a mistake. It can just be a close call that a few people disagree about. Actually, they might not even disagree about it. It might just be two talking heads on the NFL Network that are paid to argue. When that happens, the media will collectively feed the fire. And it’s going to get hot. Calls that would normally never be given a moment of air time on Sportscenter will now get five painful minutes of Herm Edwards incoherently babbling on about the sanctity of the game.
As I said, these refs will be worse and I’m not saying you shouldn’t be upset about it. But those regular referees (I keep wanting to call them full time but that isn’t even true) that we suddenly cherish? They screwed up an overtime coin toss. Let’s all just settle down.
Unless it costs the Packers a game…then fuck those guys.