Either we stop watching or the refs cave. Those are the only two ways the real refs return to the field and we stop watching referees who just months ago were working games at high schools and the Lingerie Football League. Their mistakes have been widespread: blown calls, saying the wrong team names, incorrect application of penalties, giving challenges when they were not permitted — the list goes on.
One ref was even pulled from the Saints game two weeks ago after his Facebook was discovered, showing him to be a die-hard Saints fan, while another was reported to have told Jaguars running back Maurice Jones Drew that he needed more points from him for his fantasy team.
The fallout from the mistake-prone refs has been felt even in Vegas, where casinos have reportedly added an additional 0.5 to the spread for the home team due to the refs. According to gambling expert RJ Bell, that 0.5 addition to the spread “would be the equivalent of a team having a superstar receiver or running back on the field or an opponent missing its star because of injury.”
The reason behind the addition is the disproportionate number of penalties called in favor of home teams during the first two weeks of the season. Chase Stuart, who writes for The Fifth Down, the New York Times blog devoted to the NFL, has done the math and found that “so far this season, there have been 231 penalties against visiting teams and only 188 penalties against the hosts.
“That ratio — road teams dealing with 23 percent more penalties — is far out of line with historical data, which informs us that road teams had seven percent more penalties enforced against them than home teams from 2000 to 2011,” Stuart writes.
The best comparison given so far was from Jaguars offensive lineman Uche Nwaneri, who said, “It’s like when you’re in school and have a substitute teacher: you’re going to push the envelope and see how much you can get away with before they catch on and start asserting their authority.”
The ability to influence the refs, whether it’s the fans, players or coaches, is an additional danger to a sport that has come under intense scrutiny in the past few years.
Complaints have been loud from every direction, whether it be the daily criticisms leveled against them on SportsCenter or during each game, where commentators and players never fail to voice their displeasure.
Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka spoke out this week, saying, “There’s no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there. We’ve got to get that taken care of.”
Player condemnation of the officials has been so widespread that NFL officials had to call every team last week to tell them to respect the new officials. After the Patriots lost in Baltimore this Sunday, Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes tweeted “Can some1 please tell these (expletive) zebras foot locker called and they’re needed Back at work !!!! #BreakingPoint.”
Despite all of this, the locked-out referees have no leverage in negotiations. Players will continue to play and fans will still tune in — the show will go on.
So when it comes down to it, no matter how many games take three and a half hours to finish or calls are blown, the NFL will continue to have a projected revenue of $9.5 billion this season and Commissioner Roger Goodell will still double his salary this year to around $20 million.