Monday, September 24, 2012
The Zebras Matter
Tonight's Monday Night Football contest between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks came down to one last play: A Hail Mary from about the Green Bay 27 yard line. With little time on the clock, Seattle's quarterback, Russell Wilson (a surefire star, as long as his coaches don't change him, at all...) dropped back, then stepped back even further. Although I had the Packers in my season-long pool, I found myself shouting at the television words along the line of "no! Just throw it, you stupid cunt!".
So, Russell Wilson threw it. A floating, arcing spiral, it eventually found it's way to a clusterfuck of defensive and offensive players in the end zone.
All converged on the precious ball, for even at this very early point in the respective campaigns, the fortunes of an entire season rode upon the outcome of this one, sigular, play.
Green Bay defensive back M.B. Jennings leapt over the pile, grabbing the ball with two hands and pulled it to his chest, as Seattle receiver Golden Tate wrapped one arm precariously around the ball-- after having obviously pushed a Green Bay defender out of the way, in what anyone with eyes would've said was an offensive pass interference penalty.
One official ran in, signalling an interception for Green Bay; just as another ran in, giving a very unconvincing signal for a Seattle touchdown.
Cue the chaos.
Monday Night Football annoucers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden took a look at the replay, went berserk, and just lit up the replacement officials that have been administrating the games since the beginning of preseason, owing to a league dispute over finances/other contract terms with the real referees.
Anyone with eyes could plainly see that the Packers got royally fucked on the Hail Mary call; but, because, by rule, who actually possessed the ball was not a reviewable call, the Seahawks wound up getting the win.
The Seattle Seahawks are going to be a fun, gritty team to watch in the next couple years. Even later this year, this mix of players (featuring the QB, Wilson) is going to coalesce and become an ever-increasing force in the league.
BUT, LIKE THIS?!!!
Say it ain't so, Roger!
One of my favorite sports reporters is Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald. For the past year, he (and his father, Gonzalo) has also hosted an ESPN2 show called "Dan LeBatard Is Highly Questionable"-- a show some internet people seem to hate with an almost unreasonable amount of vitriol.
Personally, while I do not always agree with LeBatard, I like the show; as it is a mix of serious sports discussion, without taking ANY of it too seriously.
Last week, LeBatard said something that really took me by surprise, pissed me off to no end. In a discussion about the "real" refs who are holding out for a better deal, LeBatard kinda casually dismissed them as guys who "work 20 days a year", yet want increased salary/benefits.
(I'm paraphrasing, here)
I see the basic idea of the "20 days a year" argument; I do.
However, moreso than baseball or basketball, an NFL ref is someone who is not only a steward of the rules; but also an administrator whose application of said rules and regulations can also help safeguard players against possible catastrophic injuries...
Same, as I see it, as an NHL ref.
In baseball, balls and strikes are balls and strikes. In basketball, double dribbling or traveling are fairly self evident. This is not to minimize baseball umpires or basketball referees: I say this merely to point out that those sports depend on their on-field/on court administrators to look for rulebook violations and enforce the basic rules of the game.
In football, if the referees cannot control the game, shit can get out of hand to the point where the safety and well being of the participants can fall under great risk.
In these first 3 weeks of the NFL season (and the preseason before), we have seen a great pile of evidence that suggests that these replacement officials are, at best, greatly overwhelmed by the task they've been given.
At worst, it appears, more and more each week, that they are easily cowed and intimidated by the bright lights under which they're asked to perform-- and coaches and players are taking full advantage of the substitute teachers who are now all but hiding under their desks!
The result has been a through-the-looking-glass freakshow at the beginning of the 2012 NFL season-- and the litany of bizarre calls/non-calls/bad spots/inept interpretation of rules/etc/etc is so long and fucked up and weird that I believe this season should have some sort of small asterisk affixed to it so something like this can never happen again.
So, as much as I normally agree with LeBatard (which is about 75% of the time), I COMPLETELY disgree with him on this issue!
The ineptitude of the replacement refs would be one thing, in terms of the administration of what some might see as petty rules and whatnot-- and EVEN THAT FUCKING SUCKS BALLS!
But, given the increasing amount of concussions meted out during games that are now played by ever faster, stronger and heavier guys willing to go lights out on anyone they perceive standing between them and a sweet paycheck; LeBatard's dismissal of the officials as guys who "work 20 days a year" but want full time money/benefits is losing ground by the second.
Sure, tonight Green Bay was fucking jobbed by refs who were overwhelmed by the stage and bright lights. Yeah, it's mathematically possible Ed Hochuli and his guys might've missed the Hail Mary call tonight in Seattle; but, I doubt it...