We Don’t Deserve Better Referees, We Deserve Better Rules

Recently NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made a statement that football fans deserve better, calling the replacement ref situation an “unfortunate distraction.” The past three weeks in the NFL have been tumultuous, but I, along with millions more, were forgiving enough to tune in with record ratings. Only until the golden boy of the NFL (Aaron Rodgers) was affected did the league have any desire to settle the referee contract, calling the call the final push toward a settlement.

Because I live in Packer Country, I have heard every gripe possible regarding the touchdown call in Seattle. Every cheesehead and player on that team has touted that the call was botched, but they clearly do not realize that the simultaneous possession rule would have been interpreted exactly the same by the “regular refs”.

The fact of the matter is that the rule may have been the cause for the Packers’ loss, but the same rule would have also been used to justify an interception. With that said, it is irrefutable that the standard refs could have made the exact same interpretation with the black and white rule in front of them.

The rule itself, not the referees, is the root of the controversy in the Packer/Seahawk game last Monday night. Simultaneous possession was introduced to the NFL in 1988 as an attempt to encourage an offense-oriented game, and last Monday night was not the first instance of it ruining a team’s night. The rule worked against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the mid-nineties when the Miami Dolphins scored a touchdown on what was ruled a simultaneous possession, and it subsequently knocked the Steelers out of playoff contention.

I believe that the NFL, players, and Packer fans unjustifiably used the replacement refs as a scapegoat for last weeks’ controversial call. The only fault that could be cited for the replacement ref crew is that they did not carry out the proper mechanics of making the call by conferencing before making the call on the field. However, with the call on the field being a touchdown, there was no incontrovertible evidence to overturn the call. Hochuli and his crew would have had to make the same call had they been in that situation.

The point of all this is that everyone who has voiced that the replacement refs had botched enough calls and that they are glad that the regulars are back are hypocrites because I cannot recall any gratitude for them in the past. The same criticisms for the refs have existed for decades, and until people accept that you cannot take the human element out of football, they will never be satisfied. Fans expect the refs to be absolutely perfect but quickly forgive their $100 million dollar babies for only completing 55% of their passes.

Personally, I do not believe that the NFL has now put a better product out on the field because the same terrible rules that started this fiasco remain. If I, as well as other football fans, deserve better, then why doesn’t the NFL eliminate ambiguous rules and create consistency with penalty calling that gives an equal playing field for offenses and defenses. Believe me, I understand that having pass-happy teams and putting up 40+ points a game leads to more media revenue for franchises via Fantasy Football addiction, but with that comes slanted rules that can sink any team at any time.

Bring back the days of defensive backs with Stickum-covered arms that deliver bone-crushing blows because I am tired of these shotty rules being created to protect the high-dollar aristocrats and that can negatively alter outcomes of games. Everyone can admit that it’s a sad day in the NFL when the current rules would prevent tenacious players like Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott from being elected to the Hall of Fame.

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