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Refs (Cont’d from previous page) back interfered with a pass receiver, knocking the ball away. The refs called a penalty. Then the refs walked off the 10-yard penalty. First down. On the next play—this was now on the defense’s 34-yard line—the quarterback threw a touchdown. Six points! But then somebody in the booth brought out the fact that in professional football this particular penalty calls for only five yards. It’s 10 yards in college play. It shouldn’t even have been a first down! Too late! Then I saw something that broke me up laughing. This was during the Jets-Steelers game. The Jets had fourth down. They decided to dive for it, and made it by a foot and a half. The ref blew his whistle, stood tall and then pointed in the wrong direction, although he
meant to point in the right direction. First QB Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass, complete, down, he said. but the receiver was tackled well short of a The errors and omissions went on and on. first down. In comes the ref and marks the ball You know how the refs give the number of two yards further into Jet territory, making it the player who caused pass interference? The a first down. He then announces first down. player’s number was As a result of this, Jet 54. “He meant 52,” coach Rex Ryan threw the commentator Watching the NFL now is a bit like a red flag asking for a said. A replay showed watching one of those old black and review. 54 never touched At the end of the white movies where the Katzenjam- review, they moved anybody. “Well, I guess mer Kids can’t do anything right. the ball back the two it doesn’t change yards. So now it was anything,” the fourth down. commentator said ruefully. On another occasion, the referees spent six There was another amazing call in the Jets minutes reviewing a call, only to return with the game. The game was still hanging in the balance. decision that, actually, due the rules, this play was not subject to review. Who are these refs? You would think they would have been called up from some football league just below the pros where hopeful refs ref, trying to show they are good enough to be elevated into the NFL referee ranks. “This ref is from a high school in Texas,” said the commentator. “A big high school. He’s supposed to be very good.” Others were refs from colleges or, as a one player, running back LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles, speculated in a radio interview, just fans dressed up in ref uniforms and given a whistle for the day. “I’ll be honest, they’re like fans. One of the refs was talking about his fantasy team, like ‘McCoy, come on, I need you for my fantasy.’” One referee, in the middle of the Saints-Panthers game on September 16, was removed from the crew after publicly proclaiming himself a Saints fan—as reported on ESPN. Bad calls. Passes dropped in the end zone being called touchdowns. At one point, after the slow motion replay showed a pass defender with a headlock on a pass receiver without a penalty being called, one of the commentators said, “What does somebody have to do to be penalized for pass interference?” Watching the NFL now is a bit like watching one of those old black-and-white movies where The Katzenjammer Kids can’t do anything right. Years ago, President Ronald Reagan locked out all the airport traffic controllers around the country. They had been demanding what Reagan felt were outrageous raises. Reagan put out a call for replacement controllers. They came in to work the next day—retired controllers, teachers and students in air control schools and I don’t know what else—and not one, not one, plane fell down from the sky until the battle was resolved four months later. (And at that time, Reagan refused to rehire those who he had locked out and instead continued on with the replacements.) Now, I know that was serious business, controlling the skies where our planes fly, but then so is the NFL. Who are we kidding here? Personally, I hope they keep the replacement refs in for a long, long time. What a scene—a bunch of incompetents trying to make decisions about and control angry men weighing 300 pounds playing football. Boy, is this fun to watch. 10940
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Dan's Papers September 29, 2012 Issue