The Upside of Replacement Officials
Reports abound, including on this site today, that the real NFL officials may soon reach a deal with the NFL and could be back on the field as early as this weekend. This is good news, for sure, but have the replacement refs really been all that bad? Sure, everyone had been quick to point out their flubs and foibles, but what about all of the good things they've done? These fellas need an advocate or, at the very least, a good p.r. firm. I'm here to help. Here are some of the ways the replacements have made the game better.
Any Given Sunday. This first one is obvious. The NFL has long marketed itself as a league where any team could beat any other team on any given Sunday. However, we all know this to be pure hogwash. In many weekly match-ups Vegas and everyone else knows that certain teams don't stand a chance against certain other teams. The new officials make things a hell of a lot more uncertain. Will they call a bogus pass interference penalty with no time left on the clock? Are they going to grant that team a fourth timeout? It's been white-knuckled excitement to the very end this year.
Creating New Stars. If there's one thing the new officials are capable of doing it's making stars out of guys who were previously toiling in obscurity. How much star-making power do the new zebras have? You need look no further than Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. Prior to Monday night's game, Tate had three career touchdowns in two years. On Monday Tate was able to shove, wrestle, and steal his way to two scores. If it can happen to Tate there's no saying that these officials can't make stars out of anyone. They're like one giant black and white Simon Cowell/Ed McMahon mash-up.
Courting the MMA Audience. Have you noticed all the extra-curricular activity after the whistle this year? The newbie refs are clearly letting the boys be boys. Sure, it may just be because they're scared, but you really have to hand it to them, some of the games this year have come very close to going full-on Terrordome. If the mixed martial arts phenomenon has taught us nothing it's that what today's kids want is to watch gigantic sweaty dudes pound on each other. The new officials are clearly dragging the NFL kicking and screaming into the octagon that is the 21st Century.
Out with the Old. Speaking of the 21st Century, hasn't it been a little refreshing to see some new faces on the field this year? Not only that, but you have a whole new roster of personality quirks to figure out. Which guy is blind as a bat, which guy can't recognize a blatant hold, which guy is whistle-happy... it's a brave new world. It's also a refreshing change from Mike Carey making his umpteenth humorless Illegal block in the back call or listening to Phil Simms gush about how big Ed Hochuli's biceps are.
So, you see, it hasn't been all bad. Sure there will be a lot of good things about getting the real officials back but maybe, just maybe, the replacements will be missed in some small way. Then again, maybe not.