Deadspin Gets the Scoop on How Bad the Replacement Refs Really Are (Real bad)
America’s favorite punter (if there is such a thing) Chris Kluwe had been writing for Deadspin over the past couple months. He always delivers, and his piece on the NFL’s replacement refs is no exception. He didn’t mince any words.
Here’s an excerpt:
One of the perks of my job is that I get a lot of opportunities to watch the refs in action, since punting doesn’t exactly take up a lot of time during the game. The following are things I have personally witnessed this preseason. I swear that all of this stuff happened.
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1. A quarterback was punched in the head during the course of a sack—it happens, all good so far. The refs respond by calling a dead-ball unnecessary roughness penalty despite it being a live-ball play—uh oh, we’re on shaky ground now. Then they walk off the penalty—and, for unknown reasons, they decide it should be eight yards. I realize that the penalty system is quite complex, with its multiples of five and all, but an eight-yard penalty? Really?
2. We walked out for a punt, and my long snapper didn’t feel like going over to the other hash. What did he do? He told the ref, “No, you have the ball in the wrong place. Move it over here.” And what did the ref do? HE MOVED THE BALL. No! Bad ref! Have some confidence in your abilities—you tell us what to do, not the other way around. (I absolutely murdered the subsequent punt by the way, so that was cool.) I haven’t personally seen it, but I’ve heard of coaches berating the replacement refs in other games and getting penalty flags picked up. I’m sure that won’t be a problem in a real game, though. I can’t picture Belichick or Harbaugh losing his shit at a ref if he thought it would give his team a tactical advantage. Totally out of character.
Kluwe ends his piece by riffing on how replacement refs affect the product and therefore matter to the fans. A completely different attitude than NFL VP Ray Anderson who said no one has ever purchased a ticket to see a ref.
I wonder who is right. It seems bad football doesn’t matter much to fans. I hear a lot of people saying the regular refs are already bad so the replacement refs can’t be much worse. Well, in my opinion, the real refs aren’t bad considering how complicated and fast this game has become. They absolutely blow calls, especially now that many calls related to safety are pretty political. But do they do obviously wrong things like calling a returner for holding? Or moving a ball because some player said to? No.
I fear none of this will matter until, of course, the replacement refs negatively affect fantasy football or betting lines.
You can head over to Dave Zirin’s Edge of Sports Radio and hear from NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith on why the referee lockout matters and the potential impact on player safety.