For What It’s Worth

Do we make replacement referee calls?

In the event there is anyone out there who is unaware of the incompetent performance of replacement referees who unfairly robbed the Green Bay Packers of a victory Monday night in an NFL game in Seattle, allow me to offer a quick review of the travesty.

Officials, who already had made some questionable calls, especially in the fourth quarter, clinched a victory for Seattle by ruling that the final play of the game was a touchdown. The play was a desperation long pass into a group of players fighting for the ball in the end zone. They fell to the turf. Two officials on the spot glanced at each other, but failed to confer on the call. One signaled touchback, which would be no touchdown, and the other signaled touchdown. Two players, one from each team, wrestled for control of the ball. The Green Bay player had both arms around the ball, apparently making an interception, and the Seattle player had one arm on the ball, appearing to be grabbing for the ball rather than having possession of it. By rule, simultaneous possession goes to the offensive player, in this case Seattle. The official signaling touchdown ruled simultaneous possession.

The referee reviewed the play on instant replay and ruled that the call would stand. Whether he actually believed that the video substantiated the call, whether it did not contain sufficient evidence to overrule the call, or whether he feared to overrule the call in front of a packed stadium of thousands of Seattle fans is not known.

What is known is that the situation was botched. The player credited with catching ball for a touchdown clearly shoved a defender to the ground to get in position to catch the ball. That is a rules violation, pass interference, and occurred right in front of the official who ruled the play a touchdown. The pass interference, if flagged as it should have been, would have ended the game with Green Bay winning. The NFL has confirmed that pass interference occurred, but noted that this is not a reviewable action and thus the play stands as called.

Of course, most of us would agree that unfairness has occurred. It is not fair to either team, and the result of that unfair decision potentially can have significant impact. For example, either team could end up making the playoffs at the end of the year by one game or missing the playoffs by one game. Thus, this injustice could irrevocably affect either or both teams’ destiny.

Let’s reflect for a moment on several things that happened here other than just the issue of who won a football game and how fair or unfair it was. Why and how did this happen?

Among the factors to consider are these: incompetence, the wrong people doing the job, erroneous judgment, indecision, and failure to consult.

Remember, the trained, skilled and professional NFL referees are on strike and the replacement officials do not have the same level of training and skill. Thus, they are lacking in competence, though they are trying their best, and they are the wrong people doing the job. A natural result of this is erroneous judgment and indecision. However, that only partially explains the lack of consultation. Even not-so-experienced officials should have the common sense and training to know that they should consult each other before making a decision in situation like the one Monday night. For example, when the two officials looked at each other, there should have been a consultation before a call was made. Also, consultation or advice could have occurred when the referee went under the hood to watch the replay. The replay officials in the booth are the regular NFL personnel (replay officials are in a different union and are not on strike with the on-field officials) and it is fair to expect that the replay official could (should?) have at least advised the replacement referee.

So, how does all this apply to us? In several ways. We often make judgments about people or situations without properly training or preparing ourselves. Just as the replacement referees may not know the rules well enough to make correct judgments in every situation, we may not have informed ourselves enough to be making the right judgments. Just as the one official may not have seen the player shoved to the ground, we may not see what is obvious to others and we make a wrong call.

How many times are we in situations where seeking advice or counsel would help us make the right decision, but we don’t seek that counsel or advice? The official ruling a touchdown saw the situation one way and the referee looking at the replay, which appeared to show something else, professed to see the same thing. Did he see the same thing? Did he just decide to back up his team member? Or, was he afraid to overrule because of what might happen with the crowd? Sometimes, we are in a similar situation. We may not want to acknowledge evidence that shows our first judgment was wrong or we fear the consequences if we reverse our judgment.

Isn’t it interesting that life lessons can come for us from unexpected sources?

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2 Responses to For What It’s Worth

  1. Hubert Edgar says:

    Brother, you shoulda been a preacher.

  2. Donna says:

    On one hand, I identify with upset football fans in this case. On the other hand, I want to respond that they know little of unfair calls compared to those of us who watch high school soccer games. 🙂 How many refs are on a football field? 7? 8? 10? At our soccer games we have 2 or sometimes 1 ref and 2 line judges. There are absolutely no replays except the verbal ones that go on endlessly after the game. Multiple bad calls can happen, and they usually lead to further abuse of rules along with unfair scores. So, I think these fans should sit through one of our games and see if they still think their situation is such a big deal.

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