It’s amazing how passionate and fickle the American sports fan can be.
Even more so when traditional non-sports fans join the Internet mosh pit of opinions.
Unless you’ve been hanging on a deserted island with Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball named Wilson, by now you know all about the fiasco of Super Bowl-sized ineptitude when the NFL replacement referees cost the Green Bay Packers a win against the Seattle Seahawks before a nationally televised audience on Monday Night Football.
The uproar was born on the final play of the game that saw Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings and Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate leap with a host of players at the end of a Russell Wilson ‘Hail Mary’ pass only to fall to the ground arms entangled around the football. Despite video replays that appeared to show Jennings had possession before Tate jimmied his arms around the ball, the Keystone Cop-ish replacement refs ruled, even after “Upon further review”, touchdown Seahawks. Ball game, 14-12 Seattle. Don’t let the victory confetti hit you on the way out the door, Packers.
The mass confusion of the two referees on top the dog pile, with one starting to signal “Touchback”, and the other going arms up for the “Touchdown”, has understandably led to the new wave of Internet memes. Move over, LeBron, the web has a new set of whipping boys.
Look at the picture above. It SEEMS that Jennings clearly is possessing more of the “possession” than Tate. Now, Seattle affiliate FOX Q-13 has footage from their photographer who ran in to the pile. FOX Q-13 claims when viewed on top, like the sight line of the officials, it shows that Tate has at least equal share, if not possession, period.
That’s besides the point. You still had two referees who looked at the same pile and came away with two opposite rulings. But they never discussed with each other what they saw. Nor did the Head Referee consult with the pair before he determined that the ruling on the field was “Touchdown” before sending the play upstairs for a replay review. But then again, in a frenzied Seattle Century Link Field, he had good reason to.
The avalanche of angry teeth gnashing after the debacle shows just how much the NFL has long replaced baseball as the biggest, most vital sports fabric woven into American culture. Consider that even with a Presidential election five weeks away, our armed forces still at war in Afghanistan, and the economy barely improving with the pace of a snail, the Packers/Seahawks controversy was the top story Tuesday morning on each and every national news morning show.
Come on, can Packer Nation really be that big?
Well, Wisconsin is surely a big enough swing state that BOTH President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney came out Tuesday with comments about the NFL’s need to bring the A-Team refs back to work. Jobs plan? Not now, let’s focus the unemployment debate on the NFL Referees Association guys who are not working. On Sundays.
Question #2: Since Washington is a state not “in play”, would a Green Bay victory mean Obama and Romney don’t jump in with sports opinions? We’ll never know.
What we do know is this: although most of the Packer fan brigade was ready to lynch the alternate zebras, at least one Green Bay TV station has a sense of humor.
WGBA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Green Bay, even reports that Mayor Jim Schmitt wrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking the league to end the lockout of the varsity refs “before it jeopardizes the Packers and the community.”
I wish I was making that up. Football is religion in Packer country.
Darn it, this is where the old FULL DISCLOSURE has to come in: Your humble Sports Narrator bleeds Purple. As in Minnesota Vikings Purple. As in, arch-enemies of all things Green-and-Gold.
But it needs to be said to all sullen Green Bay fans: GET OVER IT.
The Packers’ NFC North division foes the Vikings, Bears and Lions have all been witness to getting worked over by the refs when facing the Packers. Most notably and most often during Green Bay’s glorious run with Brett Favre at quarterback. The right call for the Packers somehow always seemed to happen at exactly the worst time for Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit.
One more thing: all those instances of the Packers getting the benefit of cruddy calls happened with… the 1st Team refs.
So the spin across sports talk is that the Monday Night Football flubbing will finally be the straw that breaks the referee lockout’s back. It appears to be gaining traction, as ESPN is reporting Wednesday morning that a deal is ‘imminent’ and the “Real Refs” could be back on the field throwing penalty flags this weekend. While the NFL officially says “There is no such thing as CLOSE to a deal”, know that even in a negative way, the league loves to be the talk of the town all across the nation.
But Goodell also knows this replacement ref charade can’t last forever. Expect the elite refs back sooner rather than later.
Still, even as the obligatory NFL Replacement Ref parody account (@ObliviousNFL Ref; Bio: “Pump gas during the week, Ref on the weekends) already has more than 95,000 followers on Twitter, also know this: the bad calls aren’t going away.
NFL fans (your humble Sports Narrator included) will always find fault with football referees. From Pop Warner leagues to High School football to College football and graduating to the NFL, the guys in the striped shirts are always going to be the evil boogie man with an agenda to screw the team you cheer for. No matter if they’re the Pros replacing the Replacements. Every flag, every ruling that’s a great call on one sideline is a great game robbery on the other.
And that’s not changing.
So set aside your judgement of these replacement referees. The NFL has done them no favors by hanging them collectively from a tree to be piñata-whacked by a nation of grumbling sports fans. Even the tag “Replacement Refs” has a definite temp-worker feel to it.
What’s not temporary? The world wide web weaving crafty frames to pounce on any and all things abuzz. And what’s a look at the Internet meme water cooler talk without a “Most Interesting Man in the World” parody?
Upon further review… maybe the NFL should stick with the D-League officials.
High drama mixed with a comedy of errors could be the recipe to keep non-sports fans at the football dinner table all season.