Sunday, September 30, 2012

Replacement Regulators

The good Doctor sent me this link on the NFL replacement refs:

The regular NFL referees are back at work, their labor dispute with the league having been resolved. Good. The replacement refs who worked the first three games of the season were poor. However, the performance of the replacements didn’t just highlight their own shortcomings. They also highlighted imperfections in the pro game itself.
The article then dives into some of the byzantine rules for the game. I know at one point in time I had remarked that American football is a highly regulated game for a highly regulated society. I know rugby fans have pointed out that their sport has all the action of American football and more, but doesn't suffer from the rule and delay overloads. From what I hear, the lack of padding makes rugby actually safer than American football.

So the intentions of American football (like American government) are good, but the end result is an unmanageable morass (as they say about "good intentions").  First they needed less rugby related injuries so they got pads.  The pads made the players more impervious so they needed more pads.  The protection turned into a weapon itself so there are rules about face masks, horse collar tackles, helmet-to-helmet, "undefended receiver" hits, etc.  Repeat this process for every facet of the game where an unbalanced fairness issue crops up and then you end up with stuff like 'illegal formation' or 'illegal shift'.

As far as the replacement refs, I didn't think they were bad, they were just different, kind of like if the guy inspecting your restaraunt changes and the new guy cares about different stuff than the old guy.

Along those lines then, I think the major complaint was related to consistency. The regular refs have been calling games years and the crews are kept together so I think what aggravated the players and coaches was that they were used to having, say, crew "A" with the set refs and umps and they would basically know how the game was going to be called (how loose pass interference is, how anal they are about holding, etc.). Another piece is that the NFL didn't seem to give two sheets about the replacement refs. They didn't seem to get much training and the NFL office would only begrudgingly stand behind them. Given the fact that the NFL wanted to avoid getting sucked into a long term liability of a defined pension plan (why in the hell are they unionized anyway?), it seems like they should have made a more concerted effort to give the replacement refs the best chance for success.

BTW, I myself didn't see anything all the outrageous about that Seattle touchdown pass.

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