PAY THE REFS! How the NFL Is Ruining My Favorite Sport

While I have friends who insist on commenting on my Facebook wall that, “it’s just a bunch of guys and a ball,” or on telling me that there are people in the world who are starving and maybe I should be upset about them instead of a fumble, to them I say: Football’s my thing.
Publish date:
September 26, 2012
nfl, football, seattle seahawks, integrity, replacement refs, green bay packers

Football is my passion. I know it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people how much I care about the sport, but like any passion, it’s something that burns within me. And while I joke that I use football as a replacement for feelings, I’ll have you know I’ve actually discussed it with my therapist and he thinks my obsession is perfectly healthy. Bam.

So while I have friends who insist on commenting on my Facebook wall that, “it’s just a bunch of guys and a ball,” or on telling me that there are people in the world who are starving and maybe I should be upset about them instead of a fumble, I say: Football’s my thing. I don’t make fun of your thing unless it’s like Burning Man or cats, in which case: totally justified. So, shhhhhhh.

(And thank you to the 50% of my audience that didn’t just abandon this to go leave a comment about how awesome cats are. I know, I know. Cats are the shit. I was kidding. Mostly.)

The thing about football is: It’s the best sport there is. (Personal opinion, but stay with me.) It’s always been played hard and with integrity. With domination and passion. Because it’s notoriously always been the most well-officiated professional sport in America, it is one of the few that’s managed to retain a sense of purity and awe throughout its history.

And now, because the NFL is too cheap to give the regular referees the raise and pensions they’re asking for, that’s all falling apart. The NFL, whose annual revenues approach $10 billion aren’t willing to part with a few million dollars in order to “protect the shield” they so adamantly support and represent. No. Rather than show any weakness, the NFL is choosing profit over integrity, player safety, and the people who keep them in business: us. The fans.

If you’re a football fan, you know all about what happened on Monday night when Green Bay faced off against Seattle. If you’re not, you likely don’t care about the details, so I’ll keep it simple. It all came down to one play. If Seattle scored a touchdown, they’d win the game. All Green Bay needed to do was prevent that from happening. And they did. Or so all of America thought.

Instead, the replacement refs, standing within feet of each other made drastically different calls. One called for an interception and one called for a touchdown. It fell apart from there.

I’ve been an active Twitter user since nearly the beginning, but in my tenure on the network, I’ve never witnessed anything like what went down in the seconds, minutes, and hours following that bad call. Everyone was certain it was not a “simultaneous catch” as the referees finally decided and, even more than that, everyone saw the offensive pass interference that should have nullified the simultaneous catch to begin with. People were livid. By midday Tuesday, the play had generated more than 1 million tweets. Green Bay Packers guard TJ Lang had over 150,000 retweets.

I was about to joke on Twitter that all was left for the President to weigh in on the debacle. But then he did:

The sad thing is, this is just one of many, many calls the replacement referees have blown in the past three weeks. Many games have been full of terrible calls, but everyone was somewhat willing to let them go because none had yet to determine the outcome of a game (depending on what you believe happened at the end of the Patriot-Ravens game on Sunday night).

But now, the bad call has playoff implications. Green Bay should have won. Everyone knows it. (Except the Seahawks who’ve shown incredibly poor sportsmanship throughout the debacle.) One has to believe the NFL knows it, even though they refused to acknowledge what all of America saw, stating that though the last-second touchdown should not have been overturned, the Seahawks receiver should have been called for offensive pass interference before the catch. Regardless, it doesn’t really matter what they say. The win can’t be overturned.

The thing is, it’s not even just this one bad call. It’s that the replacement refs are blowing simple calls. We’ve all seen them miss something obvious and coach after coach after coach blow up, some even going so far as to physically grab the refs in the heat of the moment. And it’s not just ruining the integrity of the game, it’s putting the players in danger. Because more than ever before, players are taking cheap shots. They don’t respect the refs at all. And so they’re seeing just how much they can get away with. The replacement refs simply cannot keep up and everyone knows it. They ruined the outcome of a game, but what’s next? A player’s health and future?

At this point, if the NFL does not reinstate the regular referees immediately, this season will turn into a joke. Which means that whichever team wins the Super Bowl will forever have a metaphorical asterisk by their win. Considering my team has a shot at that title, I can tell you: I’m pissed.

But the problem is: Even with these horrible replacement referees, I keep watching. I’m too addicted to boycott. Especially since my boycott would mean nothing. Green Bay offensive lineman T.J. Lang said that during the plane ride home the Packers discussed the possibility of going on strike or taking a knee during every play. Frankly, considering the NFL seems to be doing nothing about this situation, maybe that’s what it’s going to take. But I don’t believe it would be possible to get all 32 teams to agree to that. And unless everyone agrees, the season remains tainted.

I give thousands and thousands of dollars to the NFL because I love football. I love the 49ers. And I love being a passionate fan. By not working out a deal with the referees, the NFL is basically telling me to F-off. That I, and the millions of other passionate fans out there, don’t matter.

It feels a little bit like being in love with a boy who likes you back, but having his controlling father treat you like shit. How long do you hang on for before you decide it’s just not worth it? How powerful is fandom? Do we love our teams enough to deal with the abuse?

I think the NFL is about to find out.

Follow @daisy on Twitter where she cusses up a storm when her teams loses. Or wins. Classy!