Let’s see: The count in the NFL is now one ripped-off earlobe, one case of knocked unconscious for 10 minutes, one utter Monday night travesty and five coaches who have gone all “Jerry Springer Show” on incompetent officials. You wonder when the shirt-jerking is going to escalate to completely berserk and a ref will get cold-cocked. The foaming rage against replacement refs has reached such a peak the NFL should dub this Please Don’t Beat a Zebra Week.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his owner-masters have lost control of what they so smugly refer to as their “product” — as if pro football is an Amana toaster oven. Regardless of right or wrong in the labor dispute with officials, the league is guilty of gross malpractice: Before they locked out the refs, they should have made sure some replacements were halfway decently trained.
The Post Sports Live crew discusses the fallout following another blown call in an NFL game, this time costing the Green Bay Packers a victory in Seattle on Monday night, and whether or not this will be the tipping point that forces NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to settle the labor dispute with the regular referees.
What, exactly, did they expect when they threw these sad sacks on the field in the midst of two teams running at each other with violent intentions? Do the owners not know the history of their own game, the lesson of which is that in a vacuum the players will always bend rules and play more physically?
When a ball hangs in the air, as it did on the final play of Monday night’s game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, the players can’t count on the refs to make a fair, accurate call. The result? A clawing match between Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings, followed by mud wrestling. What should have been an interception was called a touchdown, and the rage-fueled outcry continued Tuesday.
Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said, “I have never seen anything like that in my time in football.”
No. He would have to go back to, oh, 1894 to see something like that.
The responsibility for this lies solely with the league for employing crews that are hapless to the point of endangerment. The underpinning of football is to gain a physical edge and move the opponent out of the way. The difference between a clean, play-stopping hit and an illegal one is a split-second of self-control. But if players and coaches sense the refs are unreliable, then they do everything more physically in order to try to impose some certainty on a crapshoot of a contest. They aren’t taking advantage; they’re just trying to solve the problems on the field by imposing their physical will.
That is why every game is beginning to look like a battle scene from “Braveheart,” with Matt Schaub losing part of an ear, Tony Romo almost losing his head, Darrius Heyward-Bey knocked unconscious and hospitalized with a neck injury after lying on the field like a broken doll, and Bill Belichick and Kyle Shanahan running after officials as if they were trying to catch the men who stole their purses.
This is not new. Anyone curious about the history of football officiating should get a copy of historian Michael Oriard’s book, “Reading Football.” Oriard, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs and now teaches at Oregon State, observes that the referee is a distinctly American creation. American football was a complete departure from British rugby in two respects: the violence of tackling and need for officiating.