SBD/September 25, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Use Of Replacement Refs Called A "Farce" As Columnists Weigh In On Situation

The controversial call during the Packers-Seahawks game raised the media's ire
The fallout from the Seahawks' last-second win over the Packers amid a controversial decision by replacement officials has intensified calls for the NFL to end the lockout of the regular referees. In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes the NFL became the “National Football Joke now, officially, at the end of Monday Night Football, in front of the country.” The replacement officials have “now turned the biggest, richest sport in the country into a cheap, carnival sideshow.” The result of this game goes on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s “permanent record now,” as these “scab refs in 2012 are costing his sport its reputation” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/25). In Boston, Christopher Gasper writes unless “the league blindfolds everyone who watches its games, it can’t do what it desperately wants to -- conceal the farce that the use of replacement officials has become” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/25). YAHOO SPORTS’ Michael Silver wrote under the header, “NFL Must Put End To Farce With Replacement Refs” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/24). In N.Y., Filip Bondy noted if Goodell and the NFL owners “thought they could get away with this nonsense for another month, then this past weekend surely opened some eyes and wallets.” Two or three results are “being sabotaged every week” by the replacement officials’ calls, and the refs “deserve the treatment, every last boo.” Bondy: “Nobody forced these replacements to step in and babysit the jobs of the regular referees who have been locked out.” The replacement refs “ought to be booed for enabling this lockout, and we ought to root for them to fail miserably” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/25).

MAKE THE CALL: ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert writes, “Can we now, in unison and without debate, agree that the NFL's plan to replace its locked out officials has failed spectacularly and embarrassingly, undermining the credibility of the league and finally -- after two months of nervous anticipation -- directly impacting the outcome of a game?” (ESPN.com, 9/25). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch writes the “blowback was so intense -- and no doubt will continue to be -- that it could have been the tipping point for the owners and their point man, commissioner Roger Goodell, in the nearly four-month labor dispute" (N.Y. POST, 9/25). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, "It feels like something irreparable changed last night" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 9/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Jason Gay writes the NFL’s replacement refs are the “great 2012 boondoggle.” The NFL is a league that “forever prided itself on rigid, institutional composure,” but it now has a “self-inflicted mess.” The league with the referee “fiasco, the meandering Saints bounty case and the continuing anxiety over player safety -- not unrelated topics, by the way -- it is showing signs of fraying” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/25). However, CBS' Jeff Glor notes the NFL "is not a league that gets bullied." Glor: "Even after what happened here, and even if you think the refs have more leverage this morning, which they clearly do, (a resolution) may not happen right away" ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 9/25).

WHAT’S THE MESSAGE?
SPORTS ON EARTH’s Joe Posnanski writes if last night’s ending “doesn’t end this farce, then it’s clear that the people who run the NFL have simply decided that they don’t owe the fans, the players or anyone else legitimacy” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 9/25). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ray Ratto wrote of NFL owners, “In fighting so stridently and arrogantly for so little money, they are upholding a principle that is near and dear to them -- their right to win everything, every time” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 9/24). In Oakland, Monte Poole notes the league “has been telling itself and anyone lending an ear that the folks in stripes don't matter.” That message is “an intelligence-insulting lie.” Poole: “We long ago realized there are no limits to how far the NFL will go to protect and preserve its precious bottom line” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 9/25). ESPN's Trent Dilfer said, "I’m angry because the NFL has insulted my intelligence. ... They are trying to tell us it’s not that big of a deal. We have a multi-billion dollar machine and we’re letting this ruin it. It’s tearing the fabric of the game.” ESPN's Steve Young: "We’ve built something great and we’re not surrounding it with partners that are competent to do the same job as everyone who has put the time and effort over a long period of time over the years. ... The NFL is too good for this, it’s too big for this and it’s hard to watch" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/24).

BIG STAGE:
SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg wrote, “We have all seen officials have bad games. We have even seen bad officials. This is different, and unlike anything I can remember.” The replacement officials “are overwhelmed,” as they “look like they spent 20 years riding a bicycle and now they have to fly a plane, and they keep looking around the cockpit for the handlebar brakes.” Rosenberg: “I don't think it is a coincidence that some of the worst officiating by the replacements has been during nationally televised games. The bigger the stage, the more nervous they must get” (SI.com, 9/24). CBSSPORTS.com’s John Breech writes the refs “really couldn't have had a worse game on Monday.” It was “ugly in the first half, it was ugly in the second half, it was ugly when the game was over and then it was ugly when the game really wasn't over because the Seahawks had to come back on the field to attempt their extra point following the controversial game-winning touchdown” (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/25).

ACTUALLY DRAWING INTEREST: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes the “bumbling of the replacement officials has thus been a boon to the league so far, giving it a moment of comic relief between main acts.” The NFL is “so financially hearty, that pause could last months.” Kelly: “As outrage goes, interest surely follows. There has never been a more fascinating time to follow the minutiae of an NFL game.” The main part of the NFL’s “brilliance in handling the controversy has been its arrogance.” The league “hasn’t attempted to damp down the fury,” as it is instead “lovingly repeating every screw-up” (TORONTO STAR, 9/25). The NATIONAL POST’s Bruce Arthur writes this is “spinning into a remarkably profane infinity.” NBC’s Cris Collinsworth during Sunday's Patriots-Ravens broadcast “gamely tried to cast it as the rough-and-tumble 1970s reborn and [though] he couldn’t keep that line of argument up, he worked pretty hard at it for a while.” Arthur: “Yes, people kept watching. In fact, the follies almost made the spectacle more compelling” (NATIONAL POST, 9/25). A Baltimore SUN editorial states the NFL “seems highly uninterested in settling the dispute” with the NFLRA, “probably because the standoff hasn't cost them in fan attendance or TV ratings so far and probably won't no matter how long this drags out.” The editorial: “If anything, the chaos on the field has only added to the spectacle of a sport that relies on spectacle” (Baltimore SUN, 9/25). In DC, Cindy Boren wrote, “When TV ratings drop? When people tire of watching refs hash out their calls? The lockout is already affecting the quality of their TV product” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/24).
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