The NFL referees are back and everything is peachy in the world of professional football. Or is it? Green Bay’s fans made Lambeau Field shake with their cheers during pregame on Sunday as the old refs made their first appearance of the season in Wisconsin, but were already booing them by the third quarter; just like old times. What all of the people in that stadium, and most of the NFL fans outside of it forgot, is that the normal refs kind of suck too. They don’t suck to the same degree that the guys who were fired by the Lingerie Football League did (yeah, those guys couldn’t even hold that job), but they suck nonetheless.
Maybe it’s because of the advancement of sports broadcasting, from high definition to super slow-mo, allowing us to more clearly see where the refs foul up the fouls. Regardless, referees in all sports are widely considered to be worse than those that came before them. Everyone misses the good ol’ days. From the NBA with all the flopping and phantom fouls, to the NFL with, well, the No Fun League has got some serious problems. What is up with the reviews this year? Nothing is getting overturned. “Clear visual evidence” my ass. It’s right there Stevie Wonder, the ball hit the ground, now overturn the call! Even all the retired refs they’ve got in the TV booths now are looking at these review people like they’re sniffing rails of Heisenberg’s blue ice.
Rails of blue ice brings me back to those scab refs. Maybe the lockout wasn’t exactly what it seems on the surface. After the player lockout last season, the NFL saw record TV ratings. Roger Goodell, as hard as he may try, simply can’t screw up football. He knew the new refs would draw people’s ire, but he also knew fans would do nothing more than complain. What were we really going to do about it, stop watching football? Come on. When it became obvious that quarterbacks were to be protected like the crown jewels, we all stayed. As Roger Goodell has slowly been trying to weed out the big hits from the game, by fining players for what had been an accepted tackle for decades, we’ve all stayed. After he changed the kickoff rules, while the most exciting return man in history - Devin Hester - is in his prime, we’ve all kept watching.
Ol’ Roger knows his brand is immutable, that nothing humanly possible will decrease viewership. That doesn’t mean he likes to hear people complain about his NFL, or suggest that, “the fix is in,” though. Not a single game goes by where fans aren’t complaining about the calls; made or missed. Would it really be so hard to believe that Douchell let the ref lockout happen to prove a point; that the regular guys aren’t so bad? Sure, it seems really out there to suggest that, but can any of us really say with certainty that Roger Goodell isn’t that big of a dick? I know I can’t.