Friday, September 7, 2012

Replacement refs? NFL must be joking

(725 words)

The conventions are now history and neither party did a thing to address the looming national crisis that by Monday is destined to plunge the country into a real depression.

Not a financial one.

A football one.

Are you ready for some NFL Replacement Refs football!

It’s a certainty that the dominant Monday storyline of the first week of professional football will be ridiculously blown calls.

Understand, blown calls are a dominant story line every week. No sport suffers more from poor officiating than the NFL.

This is curious because no sport is more over-officiated than the NFL.

Each game is regulated by seven on-field officials and a replay official who has access to 20 different cameras.

That’s almost one official for every two players, all under constant hi-def surveillance.

Felons in our maximum security prisons aren’t as carefully monitored, and these are men who’ve committed rape, murder, assault and various crimes involving narcotics and motor vehicles.

Of course, to be fair to our felons, many of those crimes have been committed by superstar members of the Baltimore Ravens, too, but let’s try to keep this on topic.

Over-officiating wouldn’t bother me if it led to correct calls in a timely manner. It never does.

It’s infuriating to sit at home or, worse, in freezing rain in an $86 stadium seat for upwards of three static minutes watching the referees confer and then -- whoops! -- blow the call.

They say a ball’s not a fumble when replays clearly show it boing-boing-boinging along the turf, that a backward pass actually traveled forward, or that a malicious Cro-Magnon lineman is innocent of clotheslining a precious quarterback when we can all see his severed head spinning there along the sidelines.

Instant replay has made the on-field officials incapable of making firm calls on obvious infractions.

I thought I came up with the perfect solution last year: First, get rid of instant replay and all but two officials -- one for the offense, one for the defense -- and ask the players to agree to play under the honor system.

That means if a player commits a foul, he needs to raise his hand and confess his infraction. Then he needs to apologize to the player he’s victimized while one of the two referees steps off the penalty yardage.

I’m baffled that the NFL, an organization that earns in excess of $9 billion a year, is risking the integrity of its game and the safety of its players in a dispute that amounts to chump change.

Many casual fans are surprised to learn regular refs are part-timers. They spend their work week practicing law, teaching school and doing a variety of regular Joe jobs (I found no evidence any of them works in optometric fields).

Why anyone would want to officiate NFL games as a sort of hobby is a mystery. Death threats over blown calls aren’t uncommon. I guess the Kevlar body suits needed to join the local bomb squads are just too uncomfortable.

So the NFL’s too cheap to invest in more professional refereeing, blown calls are rampant, and the expensive games keep getting longer and longer.

What are we going to do?

Call Enrico Palazzo!

He was the combination opera singer/home plate umpire who saved the day in Leslie Nielsen’s “The Naked Gun” (1988). He didn’t just call balls and strikes.

He goosed the players. He played to the crowd. He moonwalked.

The game he umped was one of the most entertaining sporting events I’ve ever witnessed -- and that’s not even counting the part where he heroically stopped Reggie Jackson’s attempted assassination of Queen Elizabeth.

Clown NFL umpires could entertain the crowd during the interminable time when the ball’s not in play.

Fact: every NFL games includes just about 11 minutes of the actual action. The remainder of the afternoon is just a bunch of people watching a bunch of guys mostly just standing around -- as good an excuse to guzzle $8 domestic beers as any.

A squad of bumbling Enrico Palazzos would enliven the often tedious day.

The Catholic Church takes itself less seriously than the NFL. It could use some levity.

Clown refs would be hilarious.

Funnier even than the joke the NFL’s about to force us all to witness Sunday afternoon.


Solution to NFL over-officiating: armless linemen!

NFL not rich enough: Needs ‘throwforward’ jerseys

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