The Refs Are Back - The NFL Is Perfect Again!
After a public outcry in the aftermath of this week's controversial Monday Night football victory by the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL has struck a deal to bring back the regular officials. We can now breath a collective sigh of relief, knowing that football will be perfect once more. There is only one problem! Football was never perfect, and it is never going to be perfect, there has always been bad calls, and mistakes by officials have always affected the outcome of games in the past.
The issue regarding replacement officials was completely blown out of proportion by fans, players, coaches and in particular the media. After the first two weeks of the season, people were already talking, complaints about the officials were pouring in, and this witch hunt against replacement refs was just getting started. ESPN ran a story on September 20, that I found quite interesting, but not at all shocking. The article titled "Number of flags almost the same", went on to say that statistically the number of penalties for various infractions called by replacements refs, was similar to last season with the real officials. They broke down the number of flags and different types of infractions, and most of them were reasonably the same.
Under normal circumstances, the NFL protects it's referees, and they are given the benefit of the doubt. You won't hear television commentators ripping into a professional referee about every call, because it would make the comentator appear to be unprofessional. The media is careful to respect the referees, and normally they only draw attention to the most obvious blown calls. Last week's game winning touchdown "non catch" by Golden Tate would qualify as an obvious blown call. That being said, it isn't as if it hasn't happened before.
Seattle fans will remember a few blown calls that went the other way against their team, and there was little public outcry about that outside of Seattle. Phil Luckett, who is famous for his inability to correctly perform the pre-game coin toss, was responsible for awarding Vinny Testaverde a touchdown in the dying minutes of a game against Seattle in 1998. As he scrambled toward the goal line coming up just short on 4th and 1, the television replays showed that Vinny didn't get into the endzone, but the ruling on the field was a touchdown and the Seahawks lost, not only the game, but a chance of making the playoffs.
The Seahawks went all the way to the Superbowl in 2005, and they got off to a quick start against the Steelers. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck led an opening drive, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown with a 16 yard pass to Darrell Jackson. There was a flag on the play, a phantom offensive pass interference call that wiped out Seattle's score. It was only the beginning, the entire game was filled with similar calls that appeared to one-sided in favor of Pittsburgh.
After the game Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren commented about the officiating saying: "We knew it was going to be tough going against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well." Normally comments like that would result in a fine, but Holmgren was not disciplined for his remarks.
The referee in that game was Bill Leavy, and he came clean about the bad calls in 2010, saying: "It was a tough thing for me. I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter and I impacted the game, and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights, and I think about it constantly. I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better ... I know that I did my best at that time, but it wasn't good enough ... When we make mistakes, you got to step up and own them. It's something that all officials have to deal with, but unfortunately when you have to deal with it in the Super Bowl it's difficult."
So when you put these things into perspective, the Packers loss in Seattle last week palls in comparison. The reaction from fans and media, suggesting that Seattle didn't deserve to win, and that Golden Tate is a cheater, is simply ludicrous. ESPN ran a story on Tuesday, saying: "Seattle's Win Stands"? Damn right it stands, and only a bloody fool would suggest otherwise!
Yes, admittedly the Packers were robbed, as many teams before them have been robbed, not excluding the Seahawks. When you have been betting on sports for as long as I have, you have seen it all when it comes to blown calls and teams getting robbed. It happens almost every week, but somehow the media and the fans seem to have forgotten that football is not perfect?
Moving forward, now that the regular referees are back on the job, it would be naive to think that we have seen the last of blown calls and games decided by the officials. It might not happen this week, it may not even happen next week, but before the season is finished, there will be more coaches, players and fans crying foul. But now that things are back to normal, those cries will fall on deaf ears, because under normal circumstances, nobody cares, as long as it isn't your team.
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