Replacement Refs: The Worst Running Joke In Sports

When Roger Goodell checks his voicemail messages on Tuesday he may be sitting there awhile listening to angry NFL fans vent their frustrations. (Thanks to a Clay Matthews Facebook fan page leaking his direct number)  After the Monday Night Football debacle in Seattle in which the replacement officials awarded a controversial game winning touchdown to the Seahawks over the Packers there were plenty of people crying foul.  It wasn't just complaints from Packers players it was the announcers, ESPN analysts, Sportscenter anchors, the Twitter universe, and every other NFL player watching at home.  With so many opinions coming at a rapid pace it seemed the message remained the same: get rid of the replacement refs and get the real officials back on to the field as soon as possible.

The NFL's worst nightmare came true Monday night.  The replacement officials made a call in a game that, in most people's eyes, cost the Packers the game.  I am not one to argue about a Packers loss but it sure did look like Packers' safety M.D. Jennings came down with an interception from the Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson that ended up being a Golden Tate touchdown.  Jennings seemed to have both arms wrapped around the ball with Tate having his arms wrapped around Jennings and the ball.  While it is a difficult call to the naked eye it didn't help that two officials called two different calls right next to each other.  One signaled touchback while the other one signaled touchdown (pictured above) and that sent a wildfire of confusion among teams, coaches, announcers and the crowd before the officials conversed and ruled a touchdown.  The Seahawks crowd roared in astonishment and glee while all out pandemonium continued on the field.  After looking at a review the officials upheld their decision and both teams headed to the locker room and post game interviews but the officials stayed on the field for what felt like another ten minutes before calling both teams back out on the field to kick a meaningless extra point.  Both coaches sent out players who hadn't taken off their pads and helmets already and played out the extra point before exiting to their locker rooms.  It was utter chaos and put the blackest of eyes on the NFL in front of a national audience.

Post game interviews and Twitter posts were almost as entertaining and controversial as the finish to the game with reports of Packers players throwing things at the locker room television when they saw the replay to Golden Tate keeping a straight face and denying he pushed off on the touchdown catch (read: he did) to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers calling the result of the game as "the most bitter defeat of my career" and that at one point the refs handed him a kicking ball instead of a normal one during the Packers failed two point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter.  The players vented their frustrations in social media with Packers guard T.J. Lang going on an expletive laden rant on Twitter, Zapruder-like screen by screen images of the controversial play and other players around the league calling for the end of the "Foot Locker" referees and the return of the real officials after such an embarrassing finish.

The replacement refs had their worst moment on national TV but it was hardly their only mistake in Week 3.  As many Bears fans heard the replacement ref refer to the St. Louis Rams as "Saint Louie".  An official in the Buccaneers/Cowboys game threw his hat in the end zone causing Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree to slip on the hat on a potential touchdown while 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was awarded allowed to challenge a play in the 49ers/Vikings game despite not having any timeouts remaining.  The glaring problems didn't stop there as officials in the Bengals/Redskins game marked off an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty 20 yards instead of the normal 15 while wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey of the Raiders was knocked out thanks to an illegal hit that was not penalized and Texans quarterback Matt Schaub was hit with such a vicious blow to the head that he lost a piece of his ear.  The play was penalized but should have probably resulted in an ejection or two.

So what does the NFL do now?  If there wasn't a mass call to action from fans, players and coaches over the labor dispute before, there sure as hell is now.  Commissioner Roger Goodell is losing respect quickly and gaining hatred even faster.  The most popular sport in America is fast becoming a joke because of the ineptness of the officials ruling the game.  These officials are not only incapable of overseeing an NFL game but most haven't even refereed a Division I college game.  These refs have come from Division III and lower collegiate ranks to the Lingerie Football League. You read that correctly.  And if that isn't disturbing enough you should read the article from Deadspin about just how incompetent the Lingerie Football League refs are.

It is bad enough when fans and players are criticizing the replacement officials.  It is quite another when announcers can no longer hold their tongues and offer their same criticisms.  As a "BULLS---!" chant from disgruntled Ravens fans rained down loud and clear on the officials Sunday night in the Patriots/Ravens game Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth could no longer ignore the problems on the field and spoke out.  "That's the loudest manure chant I've ever heard," said Michaels referencing the crowd.  For a league that preaches player safety and with Roger Goodell stating his #1 job as commissioner is to "protect the shield" it is looking more and more like the NFL is becoming a joke.  It is hard to find a better word to describe the job the replacement refs have done thus far and the arrogance of the league office to continue to stand by the replacement refs despite glaring misunderstandings of the rules and regulations than the word Baltimore fans unloaded Sunday night.

Are the real referees perfect? Not at all but at least they have a clear understanding of the rules and can officiate without causing long delays that disrupt the pace of the game.  Games in 2012 are closing in at 3 1/2 hours due to long pauses in games due to officials conversing to determine ball spots and penalties.  The replacement refs are hurting momentum of teams who are marching down the field and giving opposing defenses time to rest.

It is clear that the disgust of the replacement refs being in place of the real officials and Roger Goodell has reached a breaking point for fans, players, coaches and the talking heads.  Will the NFL listen?  That remains to be seen but after the firestorm of disapproval after the ending to the Packers/Seahawks game it will be interesting to see just how full of itself the league office, owners and commissioner are if they continue to allow this embarrassment to take away from the game.  Are the real refs in the clear from this whole debacle?  No, from everything I have heard about labor negotiations it seems as though the real refs may be asking for too much but it has come to a point where both sides need to sit down and hammer out an agreement that is fair for both sides.  If this sham continues the result could leave a permanent scar on the NFL that not only hurts the product on the field and the players themselves but even possibly in the owners' wallets if fans stop attending games and purchasing team gear.  Maybe that's the only way the NFL will listen is when it starts to hit them in the wallet.  For now, it seems the league has turned their back on the fans who make the league an annual multi-billion dollar industry and the players and coaches who give their livelihood and dedication to it but it seems the most glaring omission by the league office seems to be common sense itself.

What do you think of the officiating and the result of Monday night's game? Who is to blame for this embarrassment and what can be done to fix it? Sound off in the comments section below.

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    Marc Dykton

    I am the creator of "Ringside Chicago" and "Chicago Sports Addict". I have lived in the south suburbs all of my life. I am a die hard fan of the Bears, Cubs, Bulls, Blackhawks, WWE and FC Barcelona(that's right I like soccer). I attended the University of Indianapolis and graduated with a degree in Communication with a focus in Sports Information. Anything else you want to know? Feel free to ask I am an open book.

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