Why the Replacement Ref Situation is More Ridiculous Than You Think

The Denver Broncos vs. Atlanta Falcons Monday Night Football game was the absolute last straw. With the real NFL referees still in a lockout, the replacement officials are just simply not cutting it and the league is to blame.

I was one of those people in the beginning of this whole thing saying, these guys aren’t doing that bad for the situation they are in; they only had a few weeks to learn all the rules, cut them a break, blah blah blah. What do I say to that now? “Rule #76: No Excuses, Play Like a Champion.”

Oh yeah, I went there.

Except, I’m not saying that to the refs, I’m saying that to the league. Indulge me in the following analogy:

Remember the NFL lockout last year? Ok, what if instead of creating a work stoppage, the NFL decided to put AFL players in there and still call it the NFL? Guess what? A weed by any other name is still not a rose people. It wouldn’t be the NFL- it would be the AFL, with NFL rules and venues. How can the league think that bringing in Division III collegiate referees can serve as a legitimate substitute for the real thing? Not only do I not call that fair- I call that ridiculous.

What I’m getting at is that the integrity of the game is at stake. Just ask Baltimore Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh, who called Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles ‘chaotic’ because of the officiating. Joe Flacco flat out said the replacement refs are affecting the integrity of the game. While Harbaugh isn’t by any means known for his mild manner, Joe Flacco is. When you have one of the least controversial and well-respected quarterbacks in the NFL calling these guys out how can you not acknowledge this is a real problem?

Monday Night’s game was just embarrassing. Not only were they blowing basic calls that my grandmother could have called right (she’s 83 and barely speaks English), they did things like give the Broncos an extra six yards on their touchdown drive that ended the first half. Oh by the way, the first half? It lasted almost two hours. The first quarter alone took AN HOUR. I watched the entire two hours of The Voice and still was able to catch most of the second quarter. Could it be because the Geneva Convention followed every flag thrown, which happened to be every other play?

If these refs can’t call the basics and get spots right, what chance do they have against the ever-problematic pass interference? The answer is none. Too many times in these first two weeks of the regular season I’ve seen great plays by corners negated by bogus 15-yard penalties. Those are game-changing penalties. They are penalties that have changed these games.

These refs have zero control over the game. I heard someone say the players are treating these guys like substitute teachers, which is absolutely accurate. These guys are fighting and jawing at will. What do the refs do? Call off-setting penalties so neither team actually gets penalized. Is it coincidental that one of the most topsy-turvy starts to the NFL season in decades comes when the NFL referees are on strike? Doubtful.

Steve Young said last night that despite all this, the desire for the game hasn’t changed so in the end, the NFL doesn’t care. That might be the truest thing anyone has said about this debacle. It is just sad.

With no new talks scheduled between the NFLRA and the NFL was the Monday Night game still not enough to nudge the commish? Wise up, Goodell. Can I get a ‘Roger, that’?

Traded, you are: Is the Dwight Howard Saga finally over?

According to ‘sources’ on ESPN.com a four-team trade deal is in place that will send Dwight Howard to none other than the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the deal, Howard will go to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala will go to the Denver Nuggets, the Philadelphia 76ers will receive Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson and finally the Orlando Magic will acquire Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington,Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless along with ‘protected’ first round picks from each of the three other teams. Um. Exqueeze me? The Magic will get 671417 (a.k.a three in addition to their own) first round picks over the next couple of years is what you’re telling me? Is that even legal? Talk about complex. Next time a man gives me flack about women being complicated I’m just gonna pull up the Laker roster and point at Dwight Howard.

Is it me, or was this completely anti-climactic? Anyone else want to see Howard have to stay in Orlando and begrudgingly play out the season before becoming a free agent? I didn’t not want to see that, I can tell you that much.

So the story is over? Ha, if only. Allow me to venture the next chapter in the saga… the debate. You’ve got Kobe, Nash and Howard- the latter two trapped in their own version of Lord of the Rings trying to capture that first ring to no avail so far, making up the new Big Three in LA. Then, you’ve got LBJ, DWade, Bosheraptor and Jesus Shuttlesworth himself becoming the Big Four in Miami. Just resign yourselves to the fact the NBA championship will be the Lakers and the Heat in the Finals this year… and the next… and probably the next after that.

Now Howard has said already that if he were traded to the Lakers he would sign a long-term deal. He is still ultimately a free-agent after this season. He did have an interest in going to the Dallas Mavericks, and according to the article on ESPN the Mavs are waiting on him. But you have to think after playing with Kobe and Nash, nothing else is going to compare. At the end of the day, while Howard wants that money- I think he wants those rings more.

I now have to wonder if this is ultimately good for the league? If this predictability will hurt ratings and revenue? Granted, growing up I thought the B in NBA stood for Bulls because I thought it was their league and the Finals were made up of teams competing to play them. Come to think of it, that wasn’t really that far off base. I loved that era. It’s still talked about today as not only the Bulls’ golden years, but the league’s as well. That’s how I viewed it anyway. But now that the tables are turned and two teams who aren’t my home town team are the new age dynasties, I’m starting to understand how Celtics fans must have felt.

Are You Not Entertained?

Patience is a virtue I will readily admit I do not have. When I get something in my head, I want it done. Like, right now. You can bet that if my neck and millions of dollars are on the line, I’m jumping in faster than LeBron’s hairline is receding. For this reason (among others), I wouldn’t be a very good franchise player.

However, this same ‘patience’ got quarterback Drew Brees a record-breaking $100 million dollar contract with his beloved NOLA Saints. It got Matt Forte a deal right before the deadline of his franchise tender expired with the Chicago Bears. It got the hungry Ray Rice the compensation he is worth.

Maybe I should get some of this patience stuff after all.

I have to wonder though, is this all necessary? As I have mentioned before, professional contracts have gotten out of control, see What Happened to the Nice Guys? Allow me to venture the idea that maybe, the teams, leagues and even we as fans, are actually responsible for all of this.

I mean, didn’t Drew Brees know that the Saints would do whatever it took to keep him? Didn’t the Bears know they didn’t have a fighting chance without Forte, even with Chicken Cutlet healthy? You gotta think the Raven’s knew that Rice’s contributions allowed Flacco the flexibility of a 9-year-old Chinese gymnast offensively.

In situations like Brees, Forte and Rice, these players made it blatantly clear they wanted to stay. When you as a team, know you are gonna give the players what they want anyway, why all the hoop-lah?

I have an answer for you: because it keeps people interested. At the most basic level, sports are just entertainment. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. While you men may think women are crazy for being so consumed with 50 Shades, is your constant monitoring of ESPN and NFL Network really any different? Three words guys: Dwight Howard Trade. Hashtag: #thingsmorecomplicatedthanwomen… can I get a trending topic??

Yeah, it’s patience alright, if patience is spelled D-R-A-M-A.

Maybe if we stopped and smelled the Old Spice we’d all realize that sports would exist without all the twisting plot lines and insane amount of money because of the simple fact sports are a love affair. But they build bonds, they forge new friendships and subsequently break relationships (if only on Sundays). The athletes themselves love to play and we as fans, love to watch. So in the end, that little bit of drama makes it all worth it, God help us all.

Just next time your girlfriend is on the phone catching up with her friend about the latest happenings of The Bachelorette instead of rolling your eyes, think about you and your buddies convos at the bar. You might just be surprised that with a few name changes and metaphors, the nature of the conversation isn’t so different after all.

What Happened to the Nice Guys?

After my latest post about the Miami Heat winning the NBA Championship I was having a conversation with my father and we honed in on one particular subject: dynasties. His argument was that dynasties are a thing of the past, they don’t exist anymore for one simple yet powerful reason: money.

I have to say I see his point. Players these days go where the money takes them. As if the contracts themselves aren’t big enough, some of them have even been smart enough to realize while they can sign big time deals to play the sport they love, they can sign even bigger deals in endorsements. Endorsement deals are where the big money hides. A player could make $15 million/year playing but conceivably make $150 million in endorsement/advertising deals

That is just plain insane.

This realization prompted me to ask my father what Jordan made as far as his NBA salary went. His response? Enough. Huh? You mean Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, made… enough?

His Airness was the original one to be smart enough to realize opportunities outside of his playing career. He was a pioneer who paved the way for modern day player endorsements and he is still reaping the benefits. But it’s gotten out of hand- because major professional sports contracts have gotten outta hand, especially in the NBA and NFL.

Where did this ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ (not Kardashians) mentality within the professional community come from? Well John Wall is making this much and Kobe is making this much, so I should be making this much. Or I’m the franchise quarterback- pay me and kick that no name dude off the team #Kanyeshrug.

Shouldn’t the fact that these players CAN make up so much money in endorsements afford them the opportunity to stay where they are for lesser pay and betterment of the overall team? Therefore, making dynasties more prominent and likely? Have these players become so greedy that the game really is all about the benjamins for them?

From a PR standpoint- taking a pay cut to remain with your team is solid gold. It would go SO far with regards to loyalty, reputation and overall likeability. So much so that endorsement deals would come flooding in. Everyone wants the nice guy because in theory, the nice guy doesn’t exist. I don’t gotta tell my lady readers twice.

I’ll give you an example: Peyton Manning. Who doesn’t like Peyton Manning? He’s taken on this nice guy persona quite well. Here’s a guy who once offered to cut his own salary in order to better the overall team. A guy who still writes handwritten notes to the legends of the game thanking them for their contributions to the sport he loves so dearly. Now think of Peyton Manning’s endorsements… See my point?

But Manning is rare. Too rare. What happened to the nice guys? Are they all weeded out by the combine? Or does it start earlier than that? In college, perhaps?

Want my advice athletes? You get the opportunity to stay with the team who has molded you, who’s fans adore you, who has given you the support you need and paid you all they can afford- you take it. Make up the money with the hoards of endorsements thrown your way, and trust me there will be hoards. Be the nice guy. The game needs it.