Give refs a break


| dbrennan@queenscourier.com |

There is a national uproar over replacement refs in the NFL, who have proven just how good the regular ones are. You remember those guys, the ones routinely ripped for getting calls wrong? The ones considered so bad the league had to institute rules to review seemingly every play, as if getting one wrong would have national security implications?

Well it turns out that the regular NFL refs really do their job well, and shame on us for not noticing. Of course, the best refs in any sport are the ones you don’t notice.

We have become a sports-crazed society, where fans will put up with just about everything, except bad reffing! The NFL, which long ago surpassed baseball as the country’s national pastime, has become notorious in recent years for ignoring the people who foot the bill.

Fans howled when owners introduced so-called P-S-L’s, which force season-ticket holders to pay for a seat, in order to pay for a seat. And we mean pay — some up to $20,000 apiece.

If you want to watch the Thursday Night Football offering, you have to get the NFL Network (or just be smart and go to the local bar).

But now we’re dealing with the insanity of having former lingerie bowl refs destroying the credibility of real games. We are talking about a $9 billion league, holding out over about $3 million dollars. That’s beer money to these owners (have you seen what they charge for a Bud in the stadiums?)

The NFL is lauded as being one of the smartest businesses not just in sports, but anywhere. They have carefully fine-tuned the game, changing the rules to promote passing and scoring, and making the sport so much more exciting than any other form of athletic entertainment. (By contrast, baseball plods along, and much of the game we spend watching the Yankee batters adjust their batting gloves!)

But some businesses that get very successful begin to ignore the customers. And it appears the only way to get the NFL’s attention is for fans to fight back. Most will not turn off their sets. After all, football is an escape, a fantasy land where people can forget their daily anxieties (some even participating in what’s called Fantasy Football). But they may be less interested in watching an out-of-town broadcast if they think the game will turn into a farce.

And the NFL will come to its senses. Even billionaire owners don’t like being mocked on the front pages of the tabloids.

The moral to the story is this: give the refs a break. They’ve been beaten up for decades. Remember “Casey at the Bat,” written in 1888…

“From the benches… there went up a muffled roar, Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore. ‘Kill him, kill the umpire!’ shouted someone on the stand. And it’s likely they’d a-killed had not Casey raised his hand.”

So the umps, and refs, and line judges have come a long way. Something tells me they will get quite the cheer when they once again take the field.