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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Monday Night Football 'Touch-ception' Not Enough For NFL To Budge

David Tobia |
September 24, 2012 | 11:43 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Let’s all complain about the replacement refs. Let’s all laugh about how referees who have already been fired from the Lingerie Football League are now in charge of the multi-billion dollar business that is the NFL.

It was cute for a while. Like when a replacement ref said “Arizona” rather than “Atlanta”. Or when another called a penalty on “93 red” like he was officiating a flag football game for his children.

But the problem is, that’s where he belongs - not influencing the outcome of games in the multi-billion dollar business of the National Football League.

This week was bad, as officials granted timeouts when they should not have, walked off extra yards on penalties because they forgot which side of the field they were on, and threw their hats at players. But all in all, the right team seemed to win each game.

And then Monday happened. And if this replacement ref debacle has been a giant game of Jenga, with each bad call harmlessly removing a brick, then Monday night’s replacement officials just toppled the tower.

An impressive display of incompetence in the game’s final seconds overshadowed a second half where the referees negated an interception for no reason and decided “perfect pass defense” should be synonymous with “pass interference.”

But lets get to those final seconds. Down five points with time expiring, Russell Wilson hurled a pass towards the corner of the end zone. Packers’ defender M.D. Jennings leapt and secured Wilson’s pass while Seahawks receiver Golden Tate attempted to wrestle the ball away. The two fell to the ground amid five other players and continued to battle for the ball. Referees flocked to the area for a better look. Two officials looked at each other, said nothing, and then made their signals.

Problem was - they made different signals. One official put his arms up to signal touchdown while the other waved his arms above his head - or the signal for touchback. The head referee should have stopped the game, conferred, and made a final ruling. But instead, the crew somehow ruled touchdown, and thus a Seahawks victory. The crew reviewed the play, but a replay cannot overturn a simultaneous possession ruling, so the play, by rule, had to stand.

The NFL has never been short on bad calls, and even the regular refs regularly make mistakes, but it’s difficult to imagine a game more poorly officiated, and with a more obviously blown ending than this one.

People can call this the final staw, the tipping point, or some other tired cliché, but although the Jenga tower has toppled, it will rise again by Tuesday morning.

As ESPN analyst and former 49er quarterback Steve Young explained last Monday night, it doesn’t really matter how bad the replacement officials are because the NFL has an inelastic business model. There are no legitimate professional football alternatives to the NFL, and even as the replacement referees destroy the product, demand has not decreased.

We can take to Twitter with our pitchforks of 140 characters or fewer to complain, and thanks to Clay Mathews we can even drop Mr. Goodell a voicemail, but none of that will bring back the refs. We all still watched tonight. And we will all watch again Thursday. And Sunday. And Monday.

Any legitimacy the replacement referees had came crashing down Monday night. But Tuesday we will all wake up and the regular referees will be no closer to coming back. Roger Goodell will have a few more angry text messages, but until there is any decrease in NFL viewership, don’t expect any change.


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