NFL

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So remember a couple weeks ago when I said the NFL’s replacement refs would get better with practice and they wouldn’t become the story?

I was wrong. I was VERY wrong. I do not know how, but they’ve gotten worse. They’re calling games inconsistently. They’re making the wrong calls — either calling the wrong penalty, penalties on the wrong team, or calling phantom calls that aren’t actually there — and missing calls altogether. And they have NO control over the games.

If nothing else, the NFL referee lockout is proving to the world that officiating matters, and that they couldn’t, in fact, pull any guy off the street to do as good a job as the professionals. The real guys make mistakes, yes. But it turns out that they do much more to keep the game going than just make calls. They add a level of respect to the game between and amongst the players to keep them from beating up one another — which is quite impressive when, as in football (and hockey) more than most other sports, the entire POINT is to beat up the other players.

In honor of the locked out referees, I am going to give you another Ed Hochuli video. Enjoy.

It’s NFL season. Pretty much everybody knows I’m a baseball guy — I did spend a summer interviewing fans at games on Cape Cod to make my radio documentary, Baseball Is… , which was my graduation project for my BA and aired on a couple (very small market) NPR affiliates a few years ago. But people are surprised to find out that I’m also a Football guy.

Perhaps the confusion as to the fact that I love both can be summed up from an interview I did for Baseball Is… in which my interview subject pointed out that the northern parts of the country are incredibly fast-paced and love baseball, the slowest paced game in American sport, while the southern regions are slower and more laid back and yet into football, one of the fastest paced games in American sport. But no…I love ’em both.

My beloved Patriots had a nice win, but I enter the Monday night games thinking only 2 things:
(1) The survivor league I’m in was impressively dead on for Week 1, when you really don’t KNOW what each team is; and

(2)  The league is very lucky that the replacement officials haven’t gotten in the way yet. Thanks to the Seattle Seahawks, really. The refs awarded a timeout to Seattle that they didn’t have with 30 seconds remaining, giving them the chance to set up MULTIPLE plays inside the 10 yard line. Had Seattle scored and won the game, it would have been because of the officiating. Lucky the Seahawks are inept. (Having watched Pete Carroll coach on a weekly basis when he was in New England, this outcome is unsurprising to me.)

The missed/blown calls of the weekend do not surprise or upset me; there are always missed penalties — either called when they didn’t exist or not called when they should have been — and there are always a couple blown calls. The thing that worries me going forward is the fact that the referees seemed to not know some of the rules. For example, what counts as a timeout with 2 minutes remaining. Fortunately, it can only get better; either the REAL referees will settle their labor dispute with the league, or the replacements will study up and get better with every passing week.

I’m rooting for the former, but the league is lucky, because either way, the referees will not be in the headlines.

And now, I leave you with this clip of Ed Hochuli, the best referee in football, known for his detailed explanations of calls, who is also a lawyer by day. But this call is just funny.

We miss you, Ed. Come back soon!