Beyond the Bison: Sports News Across the Nation


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Julian Dorey


“Lambs to the slaughter here.”

Enough is enough. The story that wasn’t supposed to be a big deal is now one of the biggest deals.

The National Football League’s replacement referees are single-handedly making a mockery out of America’s most popular sport.

You can’t blame them. They’ve been put in an unwinnable situation. In fact, you should give them some props. They have voluntarily subjected themselves to national jeering by signing on to help the NFL owners get through their ridiculous penny-scratching labor dispute with the real refs: the pros.

It’s time for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to save these guys from continued embarrassment and, more importantly, it’s time for him to do something smart for a change. I’m not sure I can remember a commissioner in one of the four major sports who was as unpopular as Goodell has become through the past few years.

This debacle certainly has not helped.

Let’s take a step back for a second. Who ever thought we would actually be picketing to get the NFL refs on the field? Isn’t there an old saying that the zebras are always the fans’ least favorite players? Yet here we are, begging them to come back.

If and when they return this season, everything will probably return to normal. Fans will quickly transition back and rid their minds of the blip that was the 2012 NFL Referees Association lockout. They’ll intensely scrutinize the very professionals they banged the doors down for. Every holding call against their team will be met with a complaint, and there will be no such thing as a pass interference penalty on their team’s defensive backs.  But despite it all, fans will eventually get over just about every call against their team, and they’ll all be able to turn on the games every Sunday without their first thoughts being about the guys who aren’t there to win or lose.

Once the season is over, plenty will reflect on replacement refs with disdain. But it will simply be a very small wound in an incredible nine-plus decade old NFL history book.

Regardless, let’s hurry up and get out of this situation while it’s still a small wound. God forbid this turns into a season-long nightmare culminating with a Super Bowl result that leaves fans wondering if the champions won fair and square or whether they were benefactors of terrible officiating.

Right now, I’m watching games like the Broncos-Falcons Monday Night game that featured players hitting referees, veterans taking advantage of the “just don’t call anything that’s going to be controversial” attitude of most of the replacement refs and middle-school referees calling billion-dollar NFL franchises “red,” referring to the Falcons.

The NFL is too popular to have its headlines dominated by guys who aren’t playing, coaching, managing or owning. This “replacement ref concept” that is reminiscent of an officiating version of the Gene Hackman and Keanu Reeves’ film, “The Replacements,” should be nothing more than a decent idea for a daytime TV movie on Lifetime, not an actual course of action for the highest-grossing professional sports league in America.

Just for our viewing sanity, the madness has to end, and soon.

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