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A Football Firestorm


As many of you have probably figured out, I'm not an avid sports fan. So it's taken me a little while to realize something was amiss with this season of NFL games. I am a little taken aback by the vehement outcry from football fans, players, and coaches.

The regular referees are on strike. Due to that situation, they've brought in substitute referees who are, according to pretty much everyone, nincompoops making bad calls, such as Seattle Seahawks v. Green Bay Packers and Patriots v. Ravens (profanity included). The channel that was broadcasting the game failed to bleep the profanity out, so little kids watching it heard plenty.

Today I was lunching with a sports fan, and she said the situation was intolerable. Fans are madder, players are becoming a little rougher, and the coaches a little louder. Could someone tell me why there is trouble in the substitute referee world -- why is it so seemingly difficult to make these calls? Is there a conspiracy plot being hatched somewhere in the football world? (I can see this saga as a plot in a fictional murder mystery novel.)

While I wouldn't know a first down from a third, I have to admit to being puzzled as to the problem with the new referees seeming incompetence. Why aren't there a plethora of qualified referees that are ready and willing to serve; after all, isn't football one of our national sports?

But more troubling is what this situation says about our nation. Have we, somewhere along the way, lost perspective and sportsman/sports-fan like behavior?

Please, sports fans, let me know what you think.

Comments:

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I was happy to see the NFL refs weren't asking for the moon.

One thing I forgot to mention in my piece, modern day Olympic Games were started by a Christian minister and was a character building exercise.
I think it has to do with the spam, Lee.
For what it's worth now, Kim, here's an excellent take on the labor relations aspect of the story:

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/328832/dead-ball-fouls-daniel-foster


(Interesting - the page says there are 90 comments on this entry, and it's doing that strange thing where the comments are all "on another page" that can't be reached. Hopefully this is just a result of some maintenance job that's reformatting everything.)
Happy day for sports fans: The professional referees are back.
http://entertainment.verizon.com/news/read.php?rip_id=%3CDA1I0O581%40news.ap.org%3E&ps=1018

I'm glad they came back before there was a blood bath.
Scrambling from the pocket, with Blake in pursuit
You're correct, Blake, about hooliganism, but I ask you to notice two things:

1. I said "intended", and when I was growing up (and even when my children were in school), sports were touted as a means to develop character. Even professionals had at least informal codes of conduct. And note that James Naismith invented basketball with the intent of creating a game that was fair and not rough; imagine what he'd think of Darryl Dawkins or Bill Laimbeer. So I was intending to say that sports has had that intention, our relatively recent horror over the bad actions of parents at their childrens' games is a reflection of the disconnect between our collective intentions and our individual actions.

2. I also said "once upon a time," which should ring a bell if you're familiar with the Brothers Grimm. ;-) Between the end of WWII and the start of the Sixties, professional sports mostly cleaned up its act among the teams and in the stands. If the behavior Kim's highlighting is a return to norms, then those are norms that should be condemned, again, by Christians (as, I think, Kim is hinting we should consider doing).

----

Gina, I think it's fantastic; bravo to Alan for continuing to innovate! My only suggestion is to perhaps consider this posting of Kim's, and change the background color to either yellow or red. Hmm, or maybe let you *choose* yellow or red, depending on circumstances:

http://floppingaces.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/throw-penalty-flag1.jpg

http://www.themaddencurse.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/red-flag.jpg
The gray box is for the editor. Now, the question is, are the retirees too beat-up from playing this contact sport to run the field?
The gray box is a new experiment of Alan's: admin comments. What do you think? :-)
In response to Lee
"The worldview issue here is that once upon a time, sports were intended to build character in all the participants, including spectators."

I don't think this is at all true. From my cursory familiarity with the history of football, hockey, Lacrosse and Baseball, hooliganism has always existed and 100+ years ago it wasn't uncommon for people to die from it. Violence in sports is diminishing as the rules are arranged to protect players. Just because we get the occasional sports induced riot that damages some vehicles and buildings doesn't mean violence is skyrocketing. It used to be commonplace for churches to forbid participation in sports because they didn't think they encouraged virtues becoming of a Christian.
Kim, I remember actually attending a 49ers game in San Francisco when I was a preteen four decades ago. The Niners lost due to a questionable call, and there was a near riot. I remember seeing a woman in her fifties or sixties run onto the field after the game, grab a referee's flag from his back pocket, and start beating him on the head with it. (The flag has a weight sewn into it.) A hippie from Haight-Ashbury ran onto the field, got arrested, and as he was being led away, someone in the stands threw a beer bottle that beaned the hippie right in the head. And there was other hooliganism.

Made quite an impression on this wee laddie, it did.

So bad behavior among football fans is nothing entirely new.

I wonder if some of the furor isn't being incited and/or enhanced by representatives from other unions, such as the SEIU. If the refs win their concessions, then subsequent strikes might have more power, etc.

The worldview issue here is that once upon a time, sports were intended to build character in all the participants, including spectators.

(Very interested to see if only Gina gets an indented grey box!)
Kim originally asked in the post whether retired football players could serve as referees. I cut that part when I was editing the post -- perhaps I shouldn't have!
Blake's right; the difference between professional and amateur sports is astonishing. Most good college football players can't cut it in the NFL. Major League pitchers are amazing. Watch college hockey and then go to an NHL game and you'll marvel at the speed and skill of the pros.

That said, what gets me about the substitute officials is that they don't seem to have the familiarity with NFL rules that most of us have just from watching. How did the league manage to find so many guys who apparently don't watch the NFL?
The NFLRA got the 1A (and maybe 1AA?) refs to side with them and not agree to work for the NFL. That leaves the NFL with division 2, 1A and 1AA rejects and Lingerie Football League refs to sub. The difference between where these refs are coming from, what they are used to, reffing and the NFL is many orders of magnitude different. The NFL is a lot faster and a lot more complex than anything these refs have ever seen. The nuances of the rules are a lot different. Assuming a person even has the talent to keep track of all the variables an NFL ref has to keep track of in a game and call them at the speed of the NFL it takes a lot more than a few months and a few actual games to get the hang of it.
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