Erik Ritland’s Sports Ramble, 9/21/12

Yo, what up Tennessee?!? Hello again boys and girls and welcome to the weekly Erik Ritland Sports Ramble! In this issue I take a page out of the Wall Street Journal and defend the replacement referees and look ahead to the weekend in the NFL.

The Replacements
It’s popular to talk trash about the replacement officials in the NFL. Keeping in mind that I’m not the sort of guy who takes the other side just to get a rise out of people, I find it completely necessary to stick up for the replacement officials.

There are many bad calls each week in the NFL, even with the regular officials. I have never seen a football game with great officiating. While it is human to err the amount of mistakes regular referees make, and the games that they change the end result on, are many. For example, last year when the Vikings played the Lions Joe Webb blatantly got tackled by his facemask as the Vikings were threatening to score on the last play of the game and there was no call.

I only remember that one vividly because I was a Vikings fan at the time. But any person who has watched football…well, ever, knows that every game in NFL history has been marred by officiating in some way, some games more blatantly (and with more disastrous results) than others.

Bad officiating has marred many important games – even football’s most important game, the Super Bowl. In 2010 the NFL admitted that referees missed calls in both the AFC and NFC championship games. The most shocking part about these blown calls is that there were multiple late hit and rouging penalties that weren’t called (this was the year that New Orleans embarrassed the NFL and themselves by participating in what is now called bountygate).

This point is poignant because there are a lot of people who are saying that the replacement referees are somehow endangering the safety of the players. Well, the regular referees have done a good job of that in the past themselves – just ask Brett Favre.

As if AFC and NFC championship games weren’t bad enough to ruin, officials have gone on record admitting that their blown calls have effected the outcome of a Super Bowl. In 2006 the Seattle Seahawks had their only Super Bowl appearance marred by officiating that was so poor, and so slanted against the Seahawks, that officials from the game have admitted that they’ve lost sleep over it. I especially remember that Super Bowl because from the start I had a feeling that the referees would try to hand the game to the Steelers so Jerome Bettis could retire with a Super Bowl ring (stories about it were all over leading up to the game).

I know that highlighting a few poorly officiated games and blown calls doesn’t conclusively prove that regular NFL officials are awful. They aren’t. They often do an adequate job. But the regular referres aren’t perfect; as a matter of fact, they were far from perfect, and the replacement officials are doing just as good, if not better, than they were. If you still don’t believe me, read the brilliant Wall Street Journal audit of the replacement officials.

There have been complaints that the replacements have caused games to go longer; indeed, the WSJ article notes that games have increased in time by about 6 minutes per game, or a measly 1.5 minutes per quarter. This can be explained partially by the increase in booth reviews because coaches don’t trust the replacements (though the WSJ study shows that the calls made on the field are usually right).

The larger reason games are lasting longer, though, is because of all the time wasted by coaches and players berating the replacement officials. More often than not this tactic is simply a sad attempt to try and bully the replacements and throw them off. The griping that coaches and players do off the field is usually just sour grapes. Close to home Jared Allen and Percy Harvin have both complained about what they thought were blown calls that actually weren’t, but this is going on all over the league, both during games and after.

The most annoying part about this entire situation, by far, is the constant complaining by the players, coaches, and fans over something that really isn’t an issue at all. The replacement referees are doing the best they can and if you look at the numbers – as they say, numbers never lie – you’ll see that they’re actually doing a fine job. The main point is this: in every football game there are blown calls, replacement officials or not, and sometimes they impact even the outcome of the game. The only reason people are noticing and harping on replacement officials is because they’re new and it’s a story.

NFL Week 3 Preview

3 games

St. Louis at Chicago Popular opinion is fickle. Jay Cutler looks brilliant in week one and the Bears are talked of as playoff contenders; he falls flat against the Packers in week two and now the naysayers are wondering if they’ll be a .500 football team. Cutler and company will bounce back, though, especially with their crowd behind them. The St. Louis defense is at least as good, if not better, than Green Bay’s though, so this game should be interesting. It’ll be fun to see how Sam Bradford fairs against the best defense he’s faced all year. Bears 27, St. Louis 17

Houston at Denver The Denver Broncos, I’m afraid to admit, are my Super Bowl pick for the AFC. After two weeks I’m beginning to think that maybe I should have picked the Houston Oile…uh, Texans. That is, if Matt Schaub can stay healthy all year. Peyton Manning valiantly led the Broncos back from an early deficit against the impressive Atlanta Falcons last Monday but couldn’t quite get the job done. Houston is a great team, though, and is on a roll. I’m not sure if this is considered an upset but the Oilers will pull it out. Houston 31, Denver 27

San Francisco at Minnesota The return of Randy Moss to the Metrodome in Minnesota is such an event that even I’ll be there. As many of you know Randy Moss is sort of my hero; he does what he want, he says what he wants, and he isn’t afraid to be honest, even if it isn’t what the boring white football fans want to hear. It’ll be exciting to see my boy but I won’t be surprised if he’s used more as a decoy for the 49ers more potent weapons as he was in week two against the Bears . The Vikings could catch the 49ers sleeping in this game but I really, really doubt it. San Francisco 38, Minnesota 16

The Rest
Winners in bold

Buffalo at Cleveland
Tampa Bay at Dallas
NY Jets at Miami
Kansas City at New Orleans
Cincinnati at Washington
Detroit at Tennessee
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
at Arizona
Atlanta at San Diego
Pittsburgh at Oakland
New England at Baltimore

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics are cataloged regularly at Ramblin’ On. You can reach him via email here.



One response to this post.

  1. […] 9/21/12 Sports Ramble The replacement referees in the NFL have been given a hard time by players, coaches, and fans. Well, […]


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