So it looks like the NFL referees are back this week. I haven’t watched an entire game yet this year; I saw the 2nd half of the 1st Broncos game, then didn’t see any more than a highlight or two until Julia and I watched the last 5 minutes of the infamous Seahawks/Packers game Monday night. That was arguably the greatest bit of football I’ve ever seen in my life; I was cackling with glee. Especially because I loathe both John Gruden and Mike Tirico, and seeing their faces with expressions like they have the trots and can’t dash away because they’re on camera makes me very, very happy. That said, this Q/A from the latest bit on Grantland (one of my favorite sites) from Bill Simmons pretty well sums up how I feel:
Q: Am I the only one hoping this referee lockout continues? I mean seriously, is this not the single most entertaining NFL season of all time so far? Don’t get me wrong, I love football more than anything and I really do hate that the refs are causing a great game to become a joke. But how much fun is it to watch these guys in striped shirts do a job that they are 100% unqualified to do? Isn’t this what we as an American society enjoy watching (re: “Boom goes the dynamite” guy)?. Watching the games just to see how the players, coaches, announcers, and fans react to all these calls is pure gold. And speaking of the fans, was there anything that made you feel more proud to be an American then hearing the Ravens fans loudly chant “Bullshit!” in unison on national TV? Come to think of it these referees are pulling us together as a nation. Go USA!
—Paul, Monroe TWP, NJ
SG: Now that it’s over, I’m with Paul — that was a wildly entertaining three weeks even if the NFL’s credibility went in the tank. I enjoyed reading the outraged columns, watching talking heads flip out, hearing sports radio hosts have a collective coronary, sifting through the relentless snark on Twitter, looking forward to Steve Young’s indignant rants after every Monday Night Football game, seeing the creative memes and YouTube clips, making Roger Goodell jokes, even listening to Cris Collinsworth be simultaneously disgusted (by the officiating) and delighted (that the lawlessness has led to a more physical game that resembles what we loved back in the ’70s and ’80s). There was definitely a sense that we were all in this together — fans, players, writers, bloggers, coaches and talking heads all wanted the same thing, for once — and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the camaraderie.
At the same time, we were putting players in danger, compromising the playoff picture and blurring the winning/losing line to the point that the wrong team clearly won consecutive night games. (Note: You’re not gonna believe this, but I thought the Pats got jobbed on calls that night, especially down the stretch.) To say “that’s too big of a cost” would be an understatement. Fast-forward three months: What happens if it takes 11 wins to capture the NFC wild card … and Seattle finishes 11-5 and Green Bay finishes 10-6? We’re in the same situation we were in when a really good 1987 Giants team got screwed by their replacement losses and ended up missing the playoffs for reasons that had nothing to do with football. So if that DOESN’T happen, then ultimately, I think we’ll remember Replacement 2012 as somewhere between “phenomenally memorable” and “strangely enjoyable.”
I’ll miss the outrage. I’m sure everyone will ramp up to something else, though, sooner rather than later. I’ll be ready to point a finger and laugh.