Replacements no more
This article was originally intended to discuss the incompetence level and in-elasticity of the NFL through means of promoting amateur officials to the rank of professional. It was to be formulated around the basis of missed calls, improper spot placement, partial rule understanding and most importantly, game-changing stupidity (Golden Tate, anyone?). But seeing as the NFL has finally caved and met the labor demands of the actual officials, this article will set its focus on the one word which America's favorite pasttime is predicated upon: integrity.
First and foremost, however, let us forget any allusions we as the fans may have as to the direct impact of the faux-officials on ourselves. Let us not forget the distinct difference between fandom and an actual professional sports player. Our paycheck, reputation and, ultimately, livelihood, is not contingent on the game of Football. For the fan, it is about enjoyment, community and a desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And though we may not be directly affected by the incompetence and often hypocrisy of professional sports, we still feel a sense of sympathy for fellow fans and the players we watch on Sunday.
With that being said, we can really dive into this notion of integrity. As much as fans would like to crucify the replacement referees for the travesties committed against the AFC and NFC alike, it is essential to remember that the true fault lies elsewhere. And no matter your position on the Monday night game-winning interception, you must objectively understand who the real culprit is. The fact of the matter is that the NFL gambled on inexperienced and vastly overmatched officials garnered from lower collegiate and even high school grounds.
The gamble, quite simply, did not remotely pay off. This was evident in the preseason and even more so in the first two weeks of the regular season. Something had to be done to rectify this injustice; surely the NFL would not allow a question to surface about their gridiron principles. Enter week three and insert seemingly insurmountable amounts of national criticism (Twitter anyone?). Sunday concludes with more of the same and Monday Night Football takes center-stage.
If you don't already know the story, I'll provide a very brief opening. In front of a national audience, a pair of officials simultaneously made conflicting calls of a TD and interception. Minutes later, the Seattle Seahawks, the beneficiary of the TD call, had won, sending one of the NFL's premier franchises, the Green Bay Packers, back to Wisconsin with an unfamiliar bitter taste in their mouth. They felt they had been cheated, and so did football fans of all allegiances, (rightfully so).
Perhaps fittingly, the quintessential straw that broke the NFL's back slighted the only NFL franchise owned by the fans. Call it coincidence or call it justice finally implemented by the Sports God, what reigns supreme is the profound effect it had upon the NFL. The integrity to protect and serve the shield and players behind it had been finally recognized as compromised, and with it, the level of trust in America's sport.
Though it will take some time for the NFL to regain its former respect and esteem, professional football will endure and hopefully this mistake will be looked upon as a footnote somewhere far down the road. At this point, it is anyone's best guess as to the potential prolonged effects in these post-lockout days, but two important understandings should be taken away. The NFL is no longer an inelastic business, as previously thought, and, more importantly, that the outcry of fandom can overpower and bring about change in the world of professional sports. If you are not a fan and do not pour your heart into game day, then you will probably not identify with that sentiment, but if you are a component of fandom, I advise you to take notice.
We often think that our actions or sometimes lack thereof will not be heard outside our inner circle but when those actions are collectively voiced, change can be attained. We demanded it and for the first time in a number of weeks, the NFL made the right call. Enter week four, replacements no more.