Green Bay Packers' Tramon Williams (38) and Charles Woodson (21) vie for a pass against Seattle Seahawks' Charly Martin (14), M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate, obscured, in the final moments of the Sept. 24 game. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Green Bay Packers cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson and safety M.D. Jennings fight for possession of a jump ball with Seattle Seahawks wide receivers Charly Martin and Golden Tate (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Russell Wilson threw a disputed 24-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate on the final play of a game that ended 10 minutes later when the extra point was attempted. (AP Photo/John Lok/The Seattle Times)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -
For the past decade no professional sports league in America has soared in fan popularity, basked in hungry media attention and reached the financial stratosphere as the National Football League. But, did one horrendous play call by replacement officials make the league with the "Midas Touch" look like it's as "clueless" as what happened in Seattle?
"That game it was a travesty. That was a colossal miscarriage of justice," says sports radio host Chris Vernon.
"It seems very clear at this point that they underestimated the importance of the referees," claims CBSsports.com radio host Gary Parrish. "What they've done is damage the brand. Now the story is not Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning in Denver or any football stuff."
Call it arrogance. Call it greed. Call it a bargaining tactic that's angrily backfiring resulting in upset fans, bewildered coaches and frustrated players. This year's use of replacement referees drawn in from high schools, Arena Football, and the Division Three college ranks has proven to be a thorough miscalculation by NFL owners and league executives now locked in bitter negotiations with the professional referees' union. Why couldn't they have gotten more qualified refs? As Commercial Appeal columnist Ron Higgins notes with top college referees already ensconced in BCS leagues the pickings were slim to begin with.
"Once you're a referee and you're committed to that league you're committed. You're not going to find anybody officiating in one of those leagues giving it up to go to the NFL for a few weeks until the strikes over," says Higgins. "It takes a special person to put a whistle in his mouth. Run 60 yards full speed downfield with, receivers running 4.4. and banging against defensive backs the whole way...and have them make a decision."
However, with the debacle in Seattle how long will it take the NFL owners to make the decision to call off this KeyStone Cops experiment and get the real refs back on the field? Well, there's the easy way and there's the hard way.
"If I'm the NFL Players' Union I say, no! I'm not playing this weekend. We're not playing anymore. Until you get our referees back, I'm not playing anymore," says Higgins.
Vernon adds, "The answer is to have full time officials. Major League Baseball has fulltime officials. This is too big of a deal for this to be part time gig for any of these guys."
"It's clear to everybody now that those guys are important. And if you're going to put elite level athletes on the field you better have officials on the field that know how to call the game, handle the game and keep them under control," says Parrish.
WHBQ-TV | Fox 13 485 S. Highland St. Memphis, TN 38111
Main Station: (901) 320-1313 Newsroom: (901) 320-1340