Hypocritical players should not blame the replacement referees

To the countless fans or players who are blaming the referees for last night’s end result in Seattle: Don’t. Blame the people who put them there. The commissioner and the owners would be a good place to start distributing the blame.

The referees are replacements who were hurried into the spotlight by the NFL, and as difficult as it may be for many to believe, they are actually doing the best they possibly can. Since the preseason they have been the target of all criticism — regardless of their performance on the field — while the previous referees have been made out to be a group of flawless robots who would never missed a call on the field. Every single time there is an alleged blown call, fans are quick to point out that the regular referees would not have made that call. How do they know that? The regular referees never had these many eyes on them, and the difference is that these fans are not just watching the replacement referees but they are looking for any possible reason to call them out.

Humans are not perfect. As a certified baseball umpire myself, I know what it feels like to be on the officiating side of the game, to have ignorant fans in my face when they have no idea what the rule book actually says. Regardless of the sport, officials are invisible when everything is going smoothly. When something goes wrong, everyone says it is their fault.

If humans are not perfect, neither are referees. It’s not like referees have never been involved in a controversy before. Jerome Bettis and the coin flip on Thanksgiving. Tom Brady’s fumble/incomplete pass/whatever you want to call it, now known as the Tuck Rule, on that snowy, whiteout playoff game against Oakland. Even Ed Hochuli, who has a great reputation as a well-respected, veteran referee, admitted to blowing a call during a game between the Chargers and Broncos in 2008. People were in such complete shock that he would actually blow a call. He’s human. Not a robot.

What I found to be most surprising in the aftermath of last night’s debacle in Seattle was how some players were still placing the blame on the referees. T.J. Lang, a member of the Packers offensive line which gave up eight sacks in the first half alone, said via Twitter that his team was (expletive) by the refs” and that the NFL can ” Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs”

Another Packers offensive lineman, Josh Sitton, said after the game, “That was (expletive). This is getting ridiculous!”

Lang was already out of line to be putting the blame on the referees, and both of them obviously should not have used such foul language. Maybe their offensive line shouldn’t have given up eight sacks in the first half. Maybe that wouldn’t have put themselves in a position to lose on a last second play. And surely, these players shouldn’t have opened their mouth after the game. If the NFL players think the replacement referees are ruining the integrity of the game, their use of foul language on a public website demonstrates poor sportspersonship and makes it hypocritical to even open their mouths. Failing to set an example for all of their young followers is what really ruins the integrity of the game.

I agree that the replacement referees have probably made more mistakes than we hoped for, and I agree that the new referees need to come back. But let us put the blame on the people who are responsible for putting them there, not the replacements. If the players are going to be so immature that they cannot set an example for others, I don’t see how they have a right to complain.

Out of all the tweets emerging from last night’s disaster, I think we should all agree that Deion Sanders said it best:

“I feel sorry for these refs I really do. They’re doing the best they (can) but that ain’t good enough please bring back the real thing. #truth”


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