By: Rob Johnson (@RJ1452)
"I am without speech..." That was my Tweet immediately following the confirmation of Seattle's "touchdown" Monday night. I continued to watch, in disbelief, as Green Bay was forced to send players back onto the field to go through the motions of an extra point. As it tuned out, no words, from anyone, were able to change the 14-12 final score.
As thoughts raced through my mind about what I just witnessed, the old Monday Night Football feature, You Make The Call, also flashed in my head. Remember that? If not, check this out.
I want to think that we will never see another call, especially one that decides a game, like the one we saw Monday night. However, thinking that would be foolish. With the madness of 2012, it's likely we will see a similar call this season, perhaps even this week. Imagine that. A once-in-a-lifetime, game-changing call that happens twice, three times or more in one year. It's very possible.
If lightning does strike more than once, the playoff scenario will surely be effected. The post-season may already be effected after last night. If the Seahawks make it into the playoffs by one game or the Packers miss them by one game, isn't the entire season tainted? Should there be an asterisk in the record book next to the Super Bowl winner? Or, is this year no different than the Tuck Game between the Patriots and the Raiders in 2002 or any other season with officiating mistakes that impacted a season?
I think 2012 is different, because the madness could have been avoided. According to the NFL, the rule book doesn't allow Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the outcome of Monday night's game. However, isn't there or shouldn't there be an exception in the rule book for extenuating circumstances? Perhaps not. The regular officials have made terrible mistakes that negatively impacted the outcome of games, so are the replacements officials really that much different?
Replacement officials that have never worked a NFL game provide the ultimate extenuating circumstance. The Commissioner and/or a committee should have the authority to override a game-altering call in order to protect the integrity of the game (Sorry that I used that cliché). While this may be a slippery slope (Just can't avoid the clichés), the Packers-Seahawks play was so unique and so obviously wrong, that the NFL should not have allowed it to stand.
Nevertheless, the officiating debacles that we are witnessing every week are not solely the fault of Goodell. The owners have the ultimate authority in the NFL. They could have and should have settled with the officials long before the season began. I have to think that most of the owners are wishing that same thing now. If they are not, they surely will be if their team misses the playoffs due to an officiating mistake.
The players are also to blame for the replacement officials. It is my understanding that the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn't permit the players to strike, so that style of protest is impossible. However, the NFLPA could have done a lot more earlier this year and could be more vocal now.
In the CBA negotiations, the players fought very hard for and won the ability to limit practices in the off-season as well as contact during training camp in order to attempt to avoid injuries. With replacement officials working games, there is a heightened risk for injuries that is more detrimental to players than any "hard" or "lengthy" practices. Replacement officials are lacking authority and respect, and each week, we see players stretching the limits of borderline illegal hits and cheap shots.
So, do the players really care about safety? They care about getting paid and practicing as little as possible, but I don't think they have they best interest of the NFL in mind. This is also their legacy that is being tarnished right now. Perhaps, it will take some of the player power brokers to miss the playoffs or lose the Super Bowl for the majority player mindset to change.
The regular officials are also to blame for this mess. Let's be honest. They have a really good gig. They get paid, rightfully so, extremely well to work NFL games. They also have the flexibility to make substantial amounts of money in other professions. Plus, they are set to receive healthy pensions when they retire.
The NFL isn't being ridiculous with its request for the removal of the pension plan. Nearly every business that established a pension plan has either eliminated it, will eliminate it or has changed it substantially. Regardless of the NFL's financial status, there is no reason to expect the league to be any different. In fact, with the looming lawsuits, the NFL must stockpile billions of dollars in order to be prepared to stay solvent in the future.
It's time for the regular officials to concede the job must become full-time and the pension plan must be phased out, at least for those far from retirement and for future officials. However, I do think they should receive a substantial pay raise for this.
Finally, the fans also play a part in the lockout. While we are merely minions who are ultimately disrespected by all of the other parties, fans do have the ability to affect everything in the NFL. Not attending games, not watching games and not buying merchandise would negatively impact the league. However, it would take a super-majority of fans to accomplish this feat. We all know that will not happen, but never forget that the ultimate authority could actually be in the hands of the fans.
So, how does this issue and future problems get solved? Fans: You Make The Call!
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