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Bennett-Smith: Replacement refs? Yes, please

Call me old-fashioned, but I love the replacement referees.

Miles, how could you? Miles, that’s absurd. Miles, you must have taken classes at Cal this summer.

Maybe those things are true—except for the last one, because the only time I set foot on the campus of UC-Berkeley is when I feel like Tebowing after winning the Ink Bowl. But I love the NFL’s replacement referees like Michael Vick likes throwing interceptions, which is to say I like them a lot.

Sure, I was watching the Monday Night Football game in which Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate clearly shoved a defender in order to catch a ball that was 90 percent in the defensive back’s chest. Of course I was shocked when the referees reviewed the play, ruled it a complete pass and gave the Seahawks a last-second win over the Green Bay Packers. Yes, I agree that the play is already one of the most infamous moments in the history of the National Football League.

But I view history differently.

See, I remember when Tom Brady fumbled away his chance to win the first playoff game of his career, only to see a referee under a hood give him a second chance because of the “Tuck Rule.” That game had people all over the Bay Area up in arms, because the Raiders should have walked out of Foxboro with a win.

I remember when Frank Wycheck lateraled the ball to Andre Dyson and Dyson ran untouched into the end zone for the Titans to win the “Music City Miracle” and advance to the Super Bowl in 2000. Except the ball probably went forward, and the miracle should never have happened.

And speaking of miracles, I remember watching the video of the 1972 AFC Divisional playoff between the Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers, which included one of the most controversial calls in all of sports: the “Immaculate Reception.”

Don Banks, a writer for Sports Illustrated, said that with the exception of JFK’s assassination, “there has been no piece of footage poured over more than that catch.”

All of those controversial calls, and many, many more, have been made over the years by professional referees doing their job as best they could, which is to say not very well. It’s what keeps sports columnists employed and allows sports radio talk show hosts, amateur comedians and former NFL players to be paid for being famous while talking about football.

It’s all part of a broader trend. As Americans, we love to complain, and I’m by no means above the fray. I complained earlier today when my putt lipped out on the golf course, when I realized I forgot my favorite shower sandals at home and when I couldn’t find a duvet cover to match my pillowcases.

But in sports, I realize that this is entertainment for me as a fan and not something that requires I be morally outraged because the NFL won’t overpay the “real” referees—seriously, those guys make six figures to work 10 hours a week dressed as a safari animal—and a few bad calls happen.

To be honest, when I first saw the play live, I just burst out laughing, mainly because I knew that things were about to get hilarious.

I was not disappointed. Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s press conference was hilarious, as was Aaron Rodgers’, as was the interview with Tate, as was Stuart Scott’s reading of NFL Rule 8, Section 3, Article 1, Item 5, like 17 times in two hours on SportsCenter.

Today, the soap opera continued, as the president of the United States called the outcome of the game “terrible.” The president. Seriously.

You know who should be upset about the blown call? The people who bet on the game. Now this is something I understand. It was an early Christmas for Vegas bookies when referee Wayne Elliot pointed his arms skyward, as bettors lost something on the order of $400 million in a manner of seconds.

Defensive back M.D. Jennings gets to be upset, because it was his interception that was taken away, and that might cost him several hundred thousand dollars come contract time.

The rest of the players on the Packers also have cause for dismay, because it does suck to win a game and actually lose it, especially since that loss pushed one of the preseason’s Super Bowl Favorites to 1-2 and into a bit of danger in the playoff race.

But for the rest of us who continue to spout off on Twitter and Facebook about how bad a call the refs made, and how this will forever tarnish the NFL and ruin everything that’s so great about the sacred game of football, just stop.

Like me, you will watch the next televised contests and root for your team and play fantasy football and live vicariously through the physical specimens that make millions to play a game. Admit that you love to see the bad calls because it gives you an excuse to let your voice be heard and talk to your buddies about the game and just feel good because you get to vent and argue.

Don’t blame the replacement refs for being hired to do a job they haven’t had time to train for, that they know isn’t a permanent gig, and that they know is honestly a no-win situation, no matter what. Don’t hate on guys who are trying to do a good job, because they really do try hard. And like I said before, the guys before them weren’t all that great to begin with, and the ones after them won’t be either.

So yes, it was a bad call, but it won’t kill you. Wayne Taylor doesn’t get to officiate your next promotion or your next test. And is anyone asking how he feels, since it’s likely he saw how badly the back judge had booted it big time and couldn’t do anything about it because pass interference is not a reviewable play and reviewing a simultaneous catch is a very murky area at best?

I’m going to send him a thank you letter, a teddy bear and the betting slip that he won for me. But seriously, if I catch you complaining about a referee’s bad call once the lockout ends and Ed Hoculi comes back onto your television set wearing his 12-year-old son’s shirt, things are going to get ugly, replacement ref style.

When you tune in on Thursday to see the Ravens beat down the Browns, why don’t you also sit back and follow my efforts to promote #replacementrefsareawesome on Twitter.

 

Miles Bennett-Smith thinks Seattle coach Pete Carroll summed the call up best on Tuesday. “They called it and game over, we win.” If you want Miles to read you more inspiring Carroll quotes, email him at milesbs”at”stanford.edu or follow him on Twitter @SmilesBSmith.

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