Botched calls not the only problem with the NFL these days

The controversial ending to Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks contest got me thinking, as it did most football fans, but not about how replacement officials have negatively affected this NFL season.  It’s safe to say we can all agree the return of the zebras is a good thing.

It’s what happened after the game that started this alternate train of thought.

Please bear with me.

Immediately after the game ended, SportsCenter dedicated its entire post-game broadcast, and countless hours afterwards, to discussion of the catch, interception and offensive pass interference call that weren’t.

As newscaster after alleged newscaster began blasting the outcome of the game, putting replacement officials and the league’s choice to employ them in their place, using superlatives like “catastrophic” and “disgraceful” to describe the final play, I started thinking about the changing way sporting events are covered in this country, by one network in particular, as if they are trying to personally champion the cause to get Ed Hochuli and company back to work.  I also started thinking of the fines that were about to be levied on outspoken NFL players, and the discrepancies between what some are allowed to say and others aren’t, when it comes to criticizing the game and the way it’s being officiated.

It got me thinking how paid journalists, at least those on ESPN, no longer “report” the news, but rather give their opinions, in this case, all of them negative and pressing for change, which is probably not the way Edward R. Murrow  or Walter Cronkite intended the medium to be.  ESPN’s ticker has gone from a scrolling parade of scores and stats, to using language like Yankees “rout” Jays or Sox “blow” lead, instead of simply saying Yankees 10 – Jays 2.  Thanks for the vocabulary lesson but I’m pretty sure if I see a 10-2 final, I can determine for myself the game got out of hand.  But of course, the four-letter is free to do as they please, just as I’m free to determine its method of reporting the news has become horrifically slanted.  At, I don’t tell you what to think, I tell you what I think and allow you to make your own decisions, whether we agree or disagree.

Sure, guys like Jon Gruden, Steve Young and Trent Dilfer, former coaches and players, are paid to voice their opinions, but other members of the media are not.  In that sense, ESPN has become as much a parody of itself as the NFL.

The outcome of the Monday night game and its coverage also got me thinking about the manner in which professional sports leagues control the speech of their athletes, coaches and fans who took to Twitter and other social networking venues to give Roger Goodell a cyber-spatial piece of their mind.  For the next few days, the NFL will pay people to sift through Twitter with a fine toothcomb, calculating exactly how much to dock its employees for stating what all of us already know, that the thousands of dollars the league is refusing to pay its licensed officials might end up costing the sport millions.

The backlash from Monday night’s botched call, and the coverage of it, will continue on, as will the fines levied on those who openly expressed their sentiments.  I can see an assistant walking into Goodell’s office with a stack of Tweets from those berating the call, with the commissioner responding “Just fine ‘em all $25 grand!”  As Packers guard TJ Lang suggested via his Twitter account, they can fine him and then “use the money to pay the regular refs.”

Lang wasn’t the only player to express those opinions.  Teammate Greg Jennings said all he can do is “laugh at the #NFL for allowing America’s game to come to this.”  Even those not playing Monday night chimed in.  Reggie Bush tweeted “These refs gotta go, I’m sorry.”  Drew Brees chimed in with “I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight’s debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we’re supposed to represent.”  NFL analyst and former Super Bowl MVP Troy Aikman tweeted “These games are a joke.”

The wise ones, like Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers bit their tongue in the post-game press conference but yesterday, Rodgers had had enough, apologizing to the fans for the product that’s being put on the field. Keep that calculator handy, Goodell, you’re gonna need it.

But is that even fair?  Should league representatives not be allowed to speak their minds, professionally, when a questionable call adversely affects, not only the outcome of that game, but perhaps the opportunity to host a home playoff game that would have brought millions of dollars into the local economy, not to mention home field advantage and increased odds of winning a Super Bowl?  Sure, they are employees and have to do their best to represent the shield but aren’t they left wondering whether that’s what the league itself is actually doing?

Again, yes, we all want the regular officials back.  That goes without saying.  But some of us also want the news reported impartially and not a long line of “journalists” eager to force feed us their opinion.  We’d also like to see players express themselves without being penalized more than they, and the fans, already have been.

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31 Replies to “Botched calls not the only problem with the NFL these days”

  1. Pingback: Botched calls not the only problem with the NFL these days - BallHyped Blog Network, NFL | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. The tv ratings are up in certain markets and marginally up from the same point of last season . What the NFL however fails to acknowledge , is that the product has become stale and officiating with the current officials has been grossly incompetent !

    The only people to have profited from last night, were the odds-makers in Vegas , who struck it rich, in netting close to $500 million .

    For Goodell’s office to issue a public statement backing the officials . Especially one , where the lead referee in in this case , Wayne Elliot’s experience consisted of officiating high school and D4 Collegiate Games , indicates to me that the NFL simply doesn’t care what the hell , the fans think !

    Goodell is a clown , but still it is also the owners who should also bear a certain amount of responsibility for allowing the commissioner let things go as far as it has . The only ones coming off here looking like imbeciles , are the league hierarchy and the owners themselves , in countenancing Goodell’s actions .

    See my own take as it’s far more hard hitting in directing animus towards the NFL .

    Bamboozled but it’s being done for your own good

    Tophatal …………..

  3. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again. Lay the blame at the feet of the player’s union. Where’s the solidarity? The referee’s union is on strike, so the players should have honored that strike by not playing. When a union in some factory go on strike, you know that the teamsters don’t make any pickups or deliveries to that factory in sympathy. The players have a better motive to honor the striking referees, their health. Don’t put this all on Goodell. The players have to share some of the burden. As for ESPN, they’ve sucked so long now, I haven’t taken them seriously for at least 20 years. About the time of the OJ trial. And, you’re right. Just give me the scores. I don’t need an editorial.

  4. Personally, I despise unions so these over paid, part time referees need to just take the ridiculous amount of money they already get and save for their own damn retirement. I’ll take the replacements, mistakes and all, in lieu of settling with the better refs. In defense of the officials on the field, the play unfolded pretty quickly and if you watch the video replays, none of them were directly on top of the “catch/interception” until the two players came down with the ball so they were not in position to see if the ball was caught simultaneously by both players. I don’t think the so-called good refs would have been in any better position to make the call. That being said, the replay officials blew the review of the call even though GreenBay intercepted the ball and Seattle grabbed the ball on the way down. In the end, I was glad GreenBay lost regardless of how it happened!

  5. It’s amazing that with all the advances in technology that there still hasn’t been a device invented that can measure how little I care what Trent Dilfer thinks. This pissing contest is getting pretty freakin’ old.
    To better days my friend!

  6. The sheer length of games this year so far has turned me off to the sport more than I ever thought it would. I feel like I watch more commercials than actual game! These games are taking longer than baseball Sox-Yankees games. Until the A’s are eliminated, it’s not football season for me… I actually didn’t have a huge problem with the blown call, but to not overturn it was the worst part. In the end it’s not like it was a playoff game. I wish we could’ve had this kind of reaction to the tuck rule game with the REAL refs in there…

  7. Nice I’m first.
    Completly agree bro! The mothership that is espn is getting outta hand. Great article.

  8. Al…

    The ratings are great for the NFL and have been for some time, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that the product is being compromised. There’s also no guarantee those ratings will continue if enough people are alienated.

  9. Snake…

    The Scott Van Pelts and Mike and Mikes of the world drive me nuts.

    Look, they have their commentary shows within which they can express their opinions. That’s fine.

    But when they’re on the set of Sportscenter, I want my highlights and I want to know what happened. I don’t want to know they think about what happened.

    And the players weren’t going to win that battle against a bunch of billionaires, Snake. Sure, the upper tier of footballers can survive without a few paychecks. They’ve made their fortune. But some have spent that fortune frivolously (they’re fault) and others are making league minimum.

    They may be millionaires but they’re still not the bosses and don’t have the clout of the teamsters.

  10. Dan…

    That’s the thing here. It’s not a ridiculous amount of money they’re getting paid. They’re receiving on the average eight grand a game which means about a hundred grand a season if they work every game.

    That’s not a living to sneeze at but I’m sure they also have to pay for all their expenses, air fare, hotel, meals, etc., not to mention that they’re on the field with a bunch of multi-millionaires and are asked to judge them, so I can see how they see things are a little imbalanced.

    My understanding is they’re not asking for much more, just reworking on their pension plan which seems perfectly reasonable.

  11. Aer…

    Keep hope alive on that whole Dilfer thing although Hasselbeck’s brother, who’s also on the air, had to have a considerably worse record as pro quarterback.

    Yup, I was right. 55-52 for Dilfer, 1-4 for Hasselbeck, who I wouldn’t have even known if it weren’t for his brother.

  12. Chap…

    This one failed to compare to the Tuck Rule on all counts if it weren’t for the damn replacement refs who have caused a topic of national debate. I’m pretty sure we’re all pretty tired of talking about them by now.

    I just wanted to get that whole ESPN thing off my chest. As sports fans, though, we have no choice. They own a monopoly on 24 hours sports television.

    And yea, you’re A’s are hanging tough. I’m impressed after the start they had.

  13. Suvash…

    Surprised to see you eyes open after the night we had last night.

    Goodness, bro, still recovering, although the ping pong trophy rests squarely on my counter.

    Tell Larry.

  14. Yeah…everybody misses the regular refs until we all remember that they were shitty too. These replacement guys were just five years experience and a weight bench away from being Ed “Maybe that was actually a fumble” Hochuli?

  15. Dub…

    I guess one of the points I was getting at in the piece was, will ESPN and everyone else that cried foul during the first three weeks of the season, and pre-season, scrutinize the old officials when they come back as much as they did the replacement refs?

  16. Chris

    Granted , the ratings are up in various markets but in some they have dipped and that’s something that the NFL will not necessarily acknowledge . You read my most recent piece and I stated that as such .

    Now you have PFT (Pro Football Talk) reporting that the two sides have agreed in principle to a favorable compromise . However , the NFLRA (referees’ union) has yet to vote on or ratify a deal , so that’s no guarantee there’ll be a speedy return by the NFL certified referees. Here’s to Wayne Elliott and his lame a#s crew of Monday night , who in essence humiliated Roger Goodell and the entire NFL hierarchy !

    As for broadcast outlets for the vast majority of the time those morons simply loved the controversy because it gave them something to discuss . Albeit , that they were not overly critical of their paymasters . And the NFL Network with their group of inhouse morons simply towed the NFL line concerning the replacement referees .

    Goodell was inbred , because that’s the only way to explain his complete lack of intelligence !

    I’m going to pi#s on you ___ comes courtesy of the NFL

    Tophatal …………..

  17. 1. I actually found it refreshing “journalists” working for all the NFL’s broadcast partners…even the NFL Network itself…have been blasting the farce that has been these first three weeks of the season. Of course the regular refs have had and will continue to have their gaffes but the people called upon at the start of the year to serve in the capacity of NFL officials never, ever should have seen the field. And almost to a person, everyone has called the league out and deservedly so.

    2. In the workplace we all reside within, even the slightest public disagreement about our employer would result in severe consequences. That being said, the NFL is about as far removed from a traditional workplace as can be and…with the allowance of the use of social media…I suspect the players and coaches will continue to push the envelope moaning and complaining about everything until the league finally comes down on free speech like they have…say…playing defense.

    3. I don’t think the returning refs have any idea what this fiasco has done “for” them as far as covering their coverage of the rules. I believe that for at least the balance of this season there will be scrutiny of the regular refs like never before and any mistakes will be magnified to higher levels than they ever dreamed of. Their worst nightmares will be realized as each blown call will be blown up. In my opinion these officials will be scrutinized in the bright lights for the balance of the season. Controversy = Ratings.

  18. Chris

    You made mention about the DB’s not defending ? What about the refs not calling the blatant illegal play of Golden Tate that led up to this all ? Jennings caught the ball went to the ground but prior to that Tate was pushing defensive players all over the place leading to a CB falling . Impermissible, but yet, our zebra stripped friends overlooked that . I guess their seeing eye dogs were left either on the sidelines or taken for a walk by a Seahawks’ employee, so that they could relieve themselves out of the public’s view .

    Tophatal ……………………..

  19. The NFL was already compromised , when Goodell chose to sit on the information concerning the Saints. So let’s not kid ourselves as to their being any ounce of integrity or common decency left in the NFL . Or are you that optimistic ?

    Tophatal …………….

  20. SA….

    I don’t watch as much NFL Network coverage as I should, primarily because my home cable doesn’t get the channel. What I do know about that network, and Rich Eisen deciding to take that gig, was that he wanted to be open and honest with his coverage and said he wouldn’t take the job otherwise.

    And don’t get me wrong, I understand that when one badmouths their employer, there will be consequences, however, if my employer is doing something bone-headed that affects the efficiency and image of the company, it’s also the employees right to approach ownership in a responsible and professional fashion and tell them what is going on.

    My understanding is that Hochuli has not only had his cast of regulars working out but also reviewing what’s gone on in games so far this season. We’ll see what happens… beginning with tonight’s Browns-Ravens game.

  21. I do agree that ESPN is a little ridiculous with their opinions, but that’s the society we live in. Twitter and Facebook made it so anyone anywhere can have their opinion heard most of the time for the worse. ESPN is just keeping up with the times… I do miss being able to just read stats on the bottom line though instead of Orioles rout Yankees. That tells me nothing!

  22. Al…

    The refs fucked up. There’s no denying that and I’m far from defending them.

    But the entire situation is a cluster-fuck from start to finish. I’m not saying the Packers didn’t get jobbed but they should have left no doubt.

    And this goes down to the whole debate about naivete and sports.

    I’m 44. I’m a grown man. I watch sports for the pure enjoyment of it. I don’t pretend to think the players, owners, or commissioners involved in the league are anything they’re not.

  23. Chap…

    Don’t get me wrong. The family of networks still have their fair share of quality programming.

    For example, I’m currently watching College Football Daily on ESPN U. It’s a no frills, ninety minute show that breaks down the top and bottom of college football with no bells and whistles. Just interviews and analysis.

    I have quit watching First Take entirely and even Around the Horn and PTI are becoming a little tough to stomach.

  24. Aside from PTI, I’ve completely tuned out the Four Letter, except for maybe College Game Day. There is little that ESPN does or says that appeals to me. I’d rather surf the net and read what local journalists are reporting or listen to people who think outside the box and provide a perspective with a limited agenda have to say.

    Yes, the call in the Packer/Seahawk game was a farce, but the bigger story should have been whether or not Green Bay is a legitimate contender with that performance.

    Cheers my friend!

  25. Wayne Elliot the lead official on the field on Monday night , last games he coached ………. D 3 College Football and several high school games in Plano , Tx, . So what the hell did anyone think was going to happen ?

    Multimillionaire lawyer and NFL referee Ed Hochuli . Will he now relinquish his law practice to make $250,000 a year or remain with Jones Skelton & Hochuli LLP ,. ?

    Giving it one last try

    Dropped some additional details on the refs going back . I’m going to pi#s on you ___ comes courtesy of the NFL

    Tophatal ………….

  26. Pretty poor back-up plan by the NFL, Al.

    Had they had their ducks in a row and properly trained replacement officials, they wouldn’t have had to bow down to pressure, which they ended up doing in the end.

    What’s the lesson learned here? The small guy can still win by showing the importance he brings to a multi-billion dollar economy.

    And it wasn’t even as ugly as the actual players holdout. Imagine that.

  27. I can watch that every so often, Chap.

    I still tune in to ATH and PTI more than Sportsnation but I do see your point.

    And I will listen to Cowherd. I know a lot of people don’t dig him but I think he provides a different perspective that others on the network don’t.

  28. I know I’m late to the party on this one but I am completely on board with players being able to voice their opinions more. All professional sports are essentially totalitarian with the way that they limit the free speech of atheletes. You cannot criticize the league for fear of fine, much less in a dictatorship you cannot criticize the party in power for fear of imprisonment. I know it’s an extreme comparison but I think it’s odd that no one ever questions the severe restrictions leagues place on the athletes when we live in a Western Democracy that places such a high value on the right to speak freely (of course, within reasonable limits).

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