Football Scabs and Whiners

Monday, October 1, 2012

As this is written, the news has been broken just moments ago that the NFL has reached an agreement to end the lock-out of its officials.

We assume that means we will soon be able to stop complaining about the incompetent calls of the replacement officials, and go back to complaining about the incompetent calls of the regular refs as usual.

Kidding. We're so tickled, we nearly wet ourselves.

Thank goodness the long, horrible national nightmare is over, a crisis so horrible that the actual scores of the games have been virtually pushed off the sports TV shows and sports pages to make space to lament the death of a once-proud sport. One so heinous and all-consuming that the very President of the United States had to set aside issues such as terrorism and a foundering economy to address it.

The NFL replacement referees? Pffft. A handful of questionable decisions among many hundreds within an overgrown children's game isn't really life and death unless maybe you're a Vegas sports bookie.

The national nightmare I speak of is the childish petulance of the Green Bay Packers and everyone else who treats one play in a football game as the end of the civilized world.

Now don't get us wrong. Having been shown "the unimmaculate reeption" approximately 17 thousand times now, to the point where we actually shudder to turn on a television, we can surmise like most everyone else that the officials' call on the final Hail Mary throw of the Packers-Seahawks game looks like a mistake. Green Bay and its fans lost a game, and it is understandable that they are ticked to high heaven about it.

But please, get over it.

In your life, has anything ever gone against you unfairly? Did your high school girlfriend or boyfriend dump you for no good reason? Did you get passed over for a promotion? Get cut off for the last parking spot on Black Friday? Get stuck with a bill you didn't owe? An illness you did nothing to deserve?

If not, bless you... run and hide, because karma must have a backlog of bad juju stored up with your name on it. For all the rest of us who have been screwed over, cheated, jobbed out of something we wanted at least once in our lives, did we sit around and cry about it endlessly? I hope not. Doing so would certainly set a weak example for the children who watch us. You say your piece, pull up the Big Boy (or Girl) pants, and you start moving forward again. Maybe you use your hard luck to motivate yourself to be even better in all you do afterward.

I wonder why we don't expect such elementary maturity of our professional athletes today?

Somehow, I can't imagine Dick Butkis, Mike Ditka and Jim Brown whimpering to the locker room so they could tweet out whines about how they had been treated unfairly by an official in time to get their icon on Mike and Mike. I can't picture them crying that they had lost only because of the "13th man."

If Twitter had been invented, in fact, the language that guys like Ditka would have gleefully used on it would have killed it in short order.

The honest truth is that Green Bay lost a football game, not because of one call on one play. There are hundreds of plays in a game, each an opportunity to succeed or fail, to do one's best or something less, just like there are hundreds of chances in each day for all of us.

Players blame the replacement official and his one call. You don't hear them blame themselves for doing poorly on any other one play during the game. It is as if there were only one snap to that contest; they had nothing to do with the fact that they did not play well enough throughout the game to prevent a team with a losing record last year and a rookie quarterback from being in a position to possibly beat them on a final play.

We assume that both teams took the field knowing that officiating would be done by a ragtag crew of replacements - and for all of their complaining, were it not for those replacements coming in and doing their best under duress, there might be no games and no huge paychecks for privileged players. Would Green Bay and its fans be complaining about the officiating if the seeming error helped them win, instead of lose? Of course not. They would be doing just what Seattle is doing - looking the mistake square in the eye and lying about it. "Sure he made the catch. What push off? I don't know what you're talking about."

Another great example for the kids.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear a player who had lost a game under tough circumstances to just say, "We didn't do enough to win, we'll try harder next week."

Or to hear a player who had won by such circumstances to admit that the call looked wrong to them too or to truthfully admit that in the heat of a moment, they had broken a rule.

Our heroes' lessons these days: Lose, and run to Twitter so you can blame it on someone. Win, and any cheating or lying you do is justified.

I'm not sure it is the replacement refs who have failed us in this early part of the NFL season. At least they haven't blamed anyone else for their shortcomings.

And for all the drama queening about how they destroyed a 120-year-old game in one month, NFL viewing hasn't decreased one iota. More people probably tuned in, just to see if the refs would screw up.

I actually thought they did okay, considering. I cover high school football games, which are maybe a third of the speed, and sometimes when a knot of players collide in a fleeting incident I have to turn to to take a poll on the sidelines to figure out what just happened. How people call a game this fast with such huge bodies blocking the landscape and do it as well as they usually do with or without replay is impressive.

So we have these guys who officiated in college DIII and high school and we throw them on a pro field and expect perfection day one. Heck, for all I know these guys might have been pulled from fantasy football or Punt Pass and Kick contests for preschoolers. Get real.

Sorry about your luck, Green Bay, et al, but I really don't want to hear that call still being used as an excuse months from now if you don't make the Super Bowl.

Honestly, I'd just as soon 300 pound mountains of muscle weren't sitting around daintily picking away at their cell phone keyboards, shedding tears over a call or how their multi-million-dollar contacts are fair to them. I'd just as soon that highly-paid celebrity "journalists" weren't making their TV sports shows, magazine and major newspaper lead sports stories out of egocentric twits and touts from jocks showing up on their iPads.

In the long run, who won any one non-division game in September, what the score and stats were or who made what call isn't going to matter that much. What people remember are the moments.

Watching a game with their kids and grandkids. Whether people showed any class or heart in a win or loss. How their heroes compose themselves, knowing that their words and actions are being followed by thousands of young children. It's all been entertaining. Now it's time to man up, stop whining, and move on.

In a related story, who wants to volunteer to be the replacement editor next week?