The more I watch college and professional football, the more I wonder:
What in the world did we ever do before the invention of instant replay?
The current flap over the National Football League's replacement officials, which many contend, and I agree, is threatening to destroy the integrity of the game, brings to mind the day before officials could fall back on instant replay to ensure that they got a call correct.
Remember the day? A flag was thrown, the penalty was called, and that was it. The fan could boo until he/she was blue in the face, the coach could stomp and scream, but the official's decision was final.
When instant replay was first instituted, I wasn't a big fan, mainly because I felt it would make it too easy for officials to rely on the replay, thinking, "Well, if I got it wrong, the replay will show it, and the decision can be reversed."
But you know what? As the game continued under the new rule, I found that more times than not the call the official made on the field was correct, and the replay proved it. We might have seen it differently from the stands or from our sofa watching on TV when a play occurred, but when the replay showed the ref was actually right, it gave me a new appreciation for the job that most (but not all) officlals do.
Through my years as a sportswriter, I have become friends with a number of men in striped shirts -- football and basketball -- and they could care less who wins or loses a game. They just do their job, take the verbal abuse that comes with the territory, and leave the playing field or gym with a clear conscience knowing that if they got some calls wrong -- and they probably did -- there was no malicious intent.
This current situation with the NFL seems different. Some of these officials clearly need training. There's been too many games in the past three weeks that have hinged on the calls of the officials, and that's not the way it's supposed to be.
But what can you expect? It's not like the NFL is able to go out and get some good NCAA Division 1 Southeastern Conference officals. Those guys are already busy on the weekend. Plus many college leagues have barred their officials from becoming replacements in the NFL to protect them from union backlash, in addition to many of the college supervisors being former NFL refs.
What the NFL has been left with is some officials who are not accustomed to calling big college games, let alone the professional ranks.
There was a report in the New York Post and Fox News on Tuesday that said some of the NFL replacement officials are outcasts from the Lingerie Football League, a league consisting of scantily-clad women who play the game in some of our country's larger cities.
The final officiating call in the Green Bay at Seattle game on Monday night might go down in history as the worst screw-up in the history of the NFL. The league certainly didn't do itself any favors when they announced Tuesday that there was an error made on that final play of the game in that an offensive pass interference call should have been levied against the Seahawks.
But, the league added, the replay showed that the correct call was made in Seattle being awarded a touchdown on the catch by Golden Tate.
What replay were they watching? I'm neither a Green Bay nor a Seattle fan, but it looked to me like it was an obvious interception by the Packers in the end zone, which would have solidified a Green Bay victory.
What might be even more disturbing than the number of poor calls is the fact that many of the officials don't seem to have control on the playing field. Players are mouthing at each other, shoving matches that lead to fights have become common, coaches are incensed throughout, and some players are basically playing dirty with helmet-to-helmet hits because they know they are probably not going to get flagged.
A good official in football or basketball will tell you that the best feeling they can have as a ref is to go through a game and feel like they are not being noticed.
Well, these guys are being noticed.
Not for the right reasons.