Welcome to the NFL or, as I like to call it, pro wrestling with pads
No one likes to wake to the sound of a screaming spouse.
I did Monday night.
Not only was she screaming, she was swearing like a Teamster at the TV as the Packers/Seahawks drama played out in Seattle Monday night.
I was sleeping when it happened in real life, and had nightmares after seeing the replays.
I'm sure I'm not alone.
ESPN analysts, our radio guys and anyone with a functioning set of eyes plus a rudimentary knowledge of football rules could see Packers DB M.D. Jennings intercepted Russell Wilson's desperation heave into the end zone in the closing seconds. But instead of a pick-preserved 12-7 win, replacement refs ruled that Seattle's Golden Tate had come down with the ball instead, handing the Seahawks a 14-12 victory.
The NFL now has what it dreaded--a high profile game decided by a blown call, a decision made by men who aren't up to the speed of the contest or with it's rule book. Three weeks into a new season, it's obvious that these folks--well-meaning, honest people who have families and dreams like all of us--are in over their skis.
It's going to stay this way until either the NFL and it's regular officials cut a new deal, or we as fans stop watching, listening and ingesting this inferior swill.
Commissioner Roger Goddell is getting ripped by Cris Carter and other former players who say that the league isn't living up to it's own mantra about "protecting the shield." They're right. Situations like Monday night's undermine decades of credibility built up with fans who should be assured that, no matter how bad the initial judgment on the gridiron, the truth will eventually be served either through an on-field conference or replay.
That's no longer the case.
Former Niner QB and current ESPN analyst Steve Young walked the thinnest of tight ropes the week previous when he talked about "inelastic demand" for the league's product being the key factor in allowing the game to be played with sub-par officials. There he was, a Hall of Famer, on a cable channel that does billion-dollar business in the NFL, walking right up to a line, telling fans that if they're dumb enough to keep watching, The Shield is more than happy enough to keep serving it up. As long as we buy tickets and watch games, Goddell and company are more than willing to keep serving us hamburger while claiming it's filet.
In a perfect world, a chastened commissioner would be in front of the mikes Tuesday morning to say that he's suspending the season until the referee impasse ends. He would say that he loves the game too much and respects the fans so well that he can't, in good conscience, allow conditions that could lead to another situation like the one seen Monday night.
Players have to play. Coaches have to coach. Contracts have to be honored.
That's why NFL games will light up screens again this Sunday at noon and a nation will gorge on pigskin once again, games that will be officiated by people who've proven they aren't up to the task. The money will pour in, the beefing will continue and chances are good that another close contest may end up being settled not by the guys in uniform but by the pretenders wearing vertical stripes.
In pro wrestling, fans go to the arena knowing that what they're about to see is scripted and that the officials are "in" on the act. It's part of the contract Vince McMahon and others of his ilk have with the public that supports them--a wink and a nod arrangement that says, "You know it's fake, I know it's fake but hey--I'll show you a good time and we'll both go home happy."
If games no longer have integrity, if officials are inept and outcomes influenced by their inability to call the action or interpret the game's bylaws, what you have is what you saw Monday night--another wink and a nod arrangement in which Goddell says to fans, "You know it's crap, I know it's crap but hey--I'll show you a good time and we'll both go home happy."
Happy is the last thing Packers fans are this Tuesday morning but rest assured that, come Sunday morning, Lambeau's lots will fill and the faithful will convene, calling to order still another sell-out crowd to see a game watched by millions more at home, a contest called by pretenders who's final score could once again be the product of referee ineptitude instead of the excellence of the athletes in uniform. I'll probably be one of them right there in the seats.
And Goddell will go home happy.