The Sports Guy’s Mailbox: Anti–Replacement Refs Edition

CenturyLink FieldA sampling of the responses that trickled into my e-mail over a three-hour span last night, from 8:08 p.m. PDT until 11:15 p.m. PDT, in order from when they were received, presented without comment:

Today, I was at the gym and the Packers/Seahawks game was on. I glanced at it right as a ref was making a call. I did not see the offending play, nor could I hear any commentary. Nonetheless, I found myself instinctively assuming that it was a bad call and getting pissed at the ref. That’s right, the officiating is so bad this season that just seeing a ref triggers a Pavlovian reaction for me. Good job, Roger Goodell.
—Chris, Boulder

The only entertaining aspect of the replacement refs is that, usually, the announcers and fans can tell what the ensuing penalty is going to be. With the replacement refs, on roughly half of the calls, the announcers sit in silence, afraid to speculate on the call. And those calls are generally a surprise to everyone! And we all like surprises, right?
—Steve, Dallas

There are just under six minutes to go on tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the hated Packers and the Seahawks. As a Bears fan, this game holds some significance for me — there have been numerous bad, blown, missed, horrendous, stupid, idiotic calls this game, as we have sadly come to expect from the scabs. However, despite the calls and an exasperated Gruden (the disgust in his voice oozes through my TV speakers), I stuck with it. After a stretch of four straight plays with a flag thrown, the fourth being a botched defensive interference call that should have gone against the offense, I hung my head in shame, and after this email, I am taking myself to bed. As a die hard, lifelong football fan, I for one am taking a 2-3 week break from this nonsense. This is not true football, not how I remember watching it the past 28 years of my life.
—Nick, Hopkinsville, KY

I guarantee you this is where every Seahawks fan is mentally right now after seemingly blowing another game in the red zone then somehow pulling the win out of their ass because of the worst officiating blunder in history. Right down to the feeling of drowning and abandonment as Russell Wilson’s pass went too far above Golden Tate’s head, then feeling suddenly tired, and undeserving when they get gifted a game they should not have won. These refs are a joke.
—Jack, New York

Why dont the refs just come to my house and (BLEEP) me up the (BLEEP)? Trick question. These f*ck faces couldn’t get that right either.
—Demetre, Oak Creek, WI

If this ending doesn’t lead to the real officials being brought back, Gary Bettman could travel the country and physically shit on every NHL fan and still not look as terrible as Goodell. Ew.
—Zach D, NYC

I feel like we’ve been playing Russian Roulette with the replacement refs. I think we can now say the Packers are Christopher Walken.
—Nick, Chico, CA

I grew up in Seattle and still can’t stomach the Seattle Super Bowl. I’m not apologizing for tonight’s game!
—Eric, San Diego

I read somewhere that the players are prohibited by their CBA from doing much about the replacement refs, but how about this? What if on the very first snap from scrimmage, in every game on a given Sunday, both teams line up arm-in-arm and face the press box as a protest. The offense would take a delay of game penalty and then the defense would purposely line up offside on the next play. At the end, no extra time has come off the clock and it’s still 1st-and-10, so the game is unaffected, but that would be a pretty difficult thing for the league to ignore. Of course, they may want to do it on Tampa’s bye week since I don’t trust Schiano to live up to his end of the bargain.
—Dave Monahan, Naperville, IL

After watching the ending of Seahawks-Packers, isn’t any sort of ending plausible now with the replacement refs? Who’s to say next week in the Pats-Bills game, Brady throws a game winning TD with no time left … only then Bridget Moynihan rushes the field and tackles Brady, leading the refs to flag Brady with a 15 yard personal foul and the TD is called back. Then the personal foul is challenged as part of a scoring play and is reversed on replay … but wait for it … the personal foul is immediately upheld by another replacement ref who runs out of the tunnel wearing a Bernard Pollard mask?!?!?! You’d have to at least entertain this exact possibility in today’s replacement ref NFL, am I right?
—Daz, Waltham

As a lifelong Packers fan, I am currently beside myself. That last call for a touchdown was the culmination of four horrible calls against the Packers that absolutely decided the game. After all that we have seen from these replacement refs, something needs to change. We need a full scale boycott of the NFL. It’s the only way to bring down the villain that is Roger Goodell. He has become the antithesis of a competent sports commissioner, and justice must be served. I leave the rest up to you.
—Mike Smigelski, Cleveland

Memo to Romney and Obama: First guy to come out publicly in favor of deposing Goodell will carry Wisconsin in November.
—Ryan Flippo, Tulsa

I LOVE the replacement refs! This week has been so entertaining. KEEP THE SCABS! KEEP THE SCABS! KEEP THE SCABS!
—Pete, Minneapolis

Holy shit. The NFC North is too tight a division for the refs to screw the Pack out of a win like that. At least the real refs would have taken us out to dinner first. Can we impeach the commissioner?
—Chris, Orlando

Please have someone make a YouTube clip of Vince McMahon walking out with his music buffing his chest out, walking out like mad man with a severe case of chaffing after the call from the refs announcement after Seattle’s TD.
—David, Ottawa

I am in shock right now. Without a doubt the sickest bad beat in my gambling career which is saying a lot. All I know is that Ref #28 is the one who made the bogus phantom Pass Interference call on Sam Shields on Seattle’s second to last drive for 32 yard. He is also the one who failed to see Golden Tate’s blatant shove in the back on the final play, and of course he is the one who called the touchdown. It is absolutely impossible for me to stop wondering if that guy was in some way not financially compensated or bribed to affect this game for the Seahawks. I am begging you as a prominent media figure to please bring up this particular individual, Ref #28 somehow on your site and possibly raise some groundswell for an official investigation. This is the biggest injustice possibly in the recent history of sports and sports gambling and it would be a travesty if this guy gets away with it. Please at least mention this in passing somehow in some format somewhere on Grantland. What an absolute joke, again I am in complete shock right now …
—Eugene Matusevitch, Bethesda

Why is everyone getting so upset? It’s about time Seattle got some good karma back!
—Brian, Gainesville, FL

I literally cannot believe what I just witnessed. That total screw job had to earn a new Level of Losing for Packers fans. And that was just the cherry atop the ice cream sundae of inanity that was Week 3 in replacement refereeing. To have the final result of a MNF game, the crown jewel of the weekly NFL schedule, involving one of the premier franchises in the league, get botched like that, is just unforgivable. Combine that with the rampant headshots that sent DHB to the hospital and a piece of Schaub’s ear to the moon, and you have a recipe for absolute total chaos. Clearly, it’s just a matter of time until we discover that Goodell and Bettman were separated at birth.
—Ryan Flippo, Tulsa (again)

I would rather watch Madden ’12 simulate the entire remaining NFL schedule than have games end like this. Slow, sarcastic ’80s clap to you, Mr. Goodell …
—Tom V, Dyer, IN

Super Bowl XLVII: The one with the asterisk. Goodell could end the ref’s strike tomorrow and the season would already be too compromised. Hey, on the bright side; As I write this it is 35 days, 18 hours and 41 minutes until the start of the NBA Season. Amazingly enough it’s the one winter sport not embroiled in a referee controversy or a lockout. What up Mayans?!
—Mike O’B, Commack, NY

The only two times I could remember being this upset about a football game were the 2007-2008 NFC championship game, and the Fourth and 26 game. Can we have every Packers fan line up and fire the replacements individually?
—Brett, Portland

I’m feeling something I’ve never felt before. I’ve never been cheated on (that I’m aware of), but I imagine that is what it must feel like. A cocktail of anger, regret, the feeling of being taken for granted, and self loathing for wasting my time. The officiating is a disgrace to the league. I wouldn’t take the field next week if I were a Packer (and I’m a 49er fan), nor will I be taking to the couch as a fan this weekend. I just can’t do it anymore.
—David, DC

Just watched the end of the GB/SEA game … wow! The best part about the reaction on twitter is that while many people are tweeting this may be what causes the end of the lockout, the MAJORITY believe that Goodell is probably laughing while lighting a cigar with a $1000 bill. When do we start mentioning Goodell in the “all-time worst commissioner” discussion? He realistically has made no real strides in player safety or conduct and has to be one of the most hated commissioners among players and fans (quite an accomplishment seeing how Stern is still in charge of the NBA). So if this whole replacement ref debacle doesn’t do it, what will it take to put Goodell in this conversation?
—Edward, Indianapolis

Everyone in America is cheering for the near collapse of the ref strike, but you have to wonder what other angle there is to this. You keep harping about this covering up Rogers concussion PR nightmare, but what about the other agenda he has had for three years with no buy in? The 18 game schedule had no legs anywhere among fans or players, but tell me one fan in Green Bay or New England who wouldn’t buy in to two-three extra games this season to undo the ref mistakes if they were guaranteed real refs tomorrow. Obviously its impossible for the league to add games, but at the very least it starts a conversation for things to start moving in his direction, as all things have to in his world.
—Ted, Ottawa

Even in the postgame interview, Russell Wilson seemed to know that he had just gotten away with murder. I’m sick; can they please stop ruining America’s most enjoyable pastime?
—Nick Wright, New York

This email comes right after the refs jobbed the Packers in Seatle. I just felt as if after that call the refs should’ve grabbed Aaron Rodgers near the fifty, clubbed him with an object (most likely a chair, the belt he always has on him, super bowl trophy…ect), ripped his pads off and proceded to stomp him and spary NWO on his chest as he lays comatose (kind of like this) also love this for the simple fact that it may cause us to engage in some good old fashioned Eff You football or we may inherit the no respect card.
—Jon “I took a 401k loan out to watch the Packers at the Super Bowl” Teach, Windsor

The tuck rule, Ed Hochuli/Jay Cutler dead ball call, every call in Super Bowl XL, the Jerome Bettis coin toss, the Music City Miracle lateral/forward pass, Golden Tate …
—Anthony B., Long Beach

Easy and awesome Halloween idea: Replacement Ref. You just have to look like a regular ref, and then you get to act like a jackass all night! Tried to sneak into a bar and got caught? I didn’t know the rules! I’m a replacement ref! Spill a drink all over the sexy bee at the Halloween party? Whoops! I’m a replacement ref! Threw up all over the taxi? I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS KIND OF PRESSURE. I’M A REPLACEMENT REF.
—Aaron, Chicago

I own season tickets to Lambeau and won’t be going until the actual refs come back. The worst part is, my protest means shit. I’ve already paid for the tickets and the NFL doesn’t care. I literally have no idea how to effect this standoff. I tweeted you earlier about pirating all the games, but I’m just f-ing myself.
—Nicholas Hart, Redondo Beach

Text from my brother in law that sums up our society’s apathy about the refs and the problem we should have with that if we were true fans like those of the EPL: “I almost ran out in the street and started a fire. But I would have been alone. In Britain there would already be a cop car flipped over for me to burn.” If that doesn’t say it all!
—Sean Reilly, Milwaukee

Wouldn’t it be great if all fans (I know this is impossible) would boycott the NFL for one week? I’m talking everything — no shirts, hats, shoes, no playing Fantasy football, no watching any NFL highlights, visiting any website that discusses the NFL, etc. The boycott won’t be long enough to cause any harm to employees (we need to set up a fund for the vendors/folks who work in the stadiums), but it will take money out of the owners’ pockets. The owners should be ashamed. The only thing a fan can do is boycott, which I am officially doing.
—Matt, San Antonio

Whichever presidential candidate runs on the platform of deporting Roger Goodell gets my vote.
—Marc S. Cincinnati

Let’s write a script about a part time teacher with terminal cancer who becomes a replacement referee and rigs a game to win $500,000 in Vegas. I call it Breaking Bad Call.
—Maxwell S., NY

The NFL is a joke, so let’s make it funnier. I would like to propose the Black Flag. The Black Flag can be thrown by a coach when they think the refs have made a bad call. The offending ref is then placed against the uprights and a player of the offended team gets to throw a ball at them. It won’t make up for the bad call, but it would be damn fun to watch and make you feel better.
—Dave P., New Berlin

You’re obviously getting bombarded with e-mails from people who are saying all the obvious things about these replacement refs, led by a mix of anger and confusion. But seriously, am I the only one who finds all of this to be incredibly entertaining?? Are you watching these postgame press conferences? And how about Joe Flacco and Drew Brees, AKA the nicest guys ever, trashing the refs and the league. It’s complete madness. And yet I laughed twenty different times after the Monday night game. I couldn’t stop and I want more. These refs are going soon, but I may be one of the few who are going to miss them.
—Nick Shurtleff

Like the rest of America, I am trying to figure out what just happened to the Packers. I haven’t felt this much confusion, anger, curiosity, frustration since … Monday Night RAW!! That’s what the NFL has become. Goodell is Vince McMahon! All we needed was Jim Ross yelling “Mr. Goodell, how could you, you son of a — ” as the TV cuts out to a syndicated episode of Mad About You, and we are all trying to figure out what the hell just happened. I guess I’ll have to do what I always do for answers, turn in for Thursday Night Smackdown, I mean, the Thursday Night game …
—Chase, Denver

My fiancee is a Packers fan, I am a Seahawks fan. As you can imagine, Monday night was not a good night for our relationship. At the end, I sat in front of the TV, dumbfounded like the rest of America, while she proceeded through a few of the 12 steps of grief (sadness and disbelief) before settling on anger. To paraphrase, “The Seahawks players/coaches shouldn’t be celebrating. You don’t celebrate a screwjob.” It’s true. You don’t celebrate a screwjob, whether said job happened intentionally or because of incompetence (I’ll go with option B here). So this week I will do my duty as a Seahawks fan. I won’t be celebrating one iota and I will welcome the verbal beating that is sure to come. People will ask “Man, I can’t believe the ending of that game! How can you be a Seahawks fan after that?!” and I will respond … well … I haven’t come up with an answer yet.
—Cory, Flagstaff, AZ

Goodell will go down as the worst commissioner of all time, even worse than Kevin MacArthur from The League last season.
—David, Johnson City, TN

Am I the only one that is 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)?. The NFL has become a modern day vaudeville act. If there was a football version of the Harlem Globetrotters, you can’t tell me the ending of every game would not happen EXACTLY as it did in the Seattle-GB game. Just like we all know there isn’t actually water in the bucket, it will be funny every time we watch the refs call the pass a touchdown. 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 Bull**** 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

They just mentioned on SportsCenter that tonight’s crew was the crew from the Washington vs. St Louis game. You nailed your BOCL pick.
—Patrick, the Sparklehole, SC

The more I think of it, that last play with the two refs signaling different calls resembled the Hogan-Andre match in ’88 when the Hebner brothers pulled the referee switch to screw Hogan out of the title. Either way this is such a joke that the NFL can be compared to multiple WWE storylines — a fake sport where the outcomes are predetermined.
—Billy H, Des Moines

I’m feeling a little better now, b/c somehow while trying to ease my pain by checking twitter for reactions, I ended up stumbling across Gary Payton beefing with some random guy after the guy took offense to Payton celebrating the win. The high point was Payton responding “Fuck You Bitch” point blank to the guy in his second tweet. I retweeted it, but sadly it was deleted a few minutes later, I think b/c Payton noticed that hundreds of people retweeted it …
—Eugene Matusevitch, Bethesda

If Obama steps in and gets the NFL and the refs’ union to hammer out a deal, how does that not GUARANTEE him a landslide victory in November?! Saving this NFL season might win him more accolades than killing Bin Laden. He needs to get on this before Romney does.
—Stevie, Seoul, SK

All I know is that in 5 years, you will be making a 30 for 30 documentary on these replacement referees and it will be epic. I can’t wait for you to interview the Saints fan ref, or the ref who had McCoy on his fantasy team. Or to interview the crew of the Pats-Ravens game and ask them how loud the “bullshit” chants were. Or the two refs in the Seahawks-Packers game who made opposing calls and then ultimately agreed on a TD. PLEASE START TAPING NOW!!!
—Eric B, Mokena, IL

I remember growing up and watching pro wrestling and thinking it was real … some bad guy would hit the good guy with a foreign object and then get the pinfall and would use the next available interview time to specifically disavow any cheating had occurred despite the specific video evidence to the contrary that the whole viewership could see. That tactic always served to both insult my intelligence and improve that wrestler’s standing as a heel. I note this only because of the sharp similarity in my feelings between the events of above and Golden Tate’s postgame interview where he straight faced not admitting to the blatant offensive pass interference penalty he committed before “catching” the ball. I now hate him as much as I ever hated the Iron Shiek.
—Jody F., Voorhees, NJ

Can you imagine if another company treated its customers like the NFL does? It’s like if Apple were to respond to complaints about software glitches in the new iPhone by saying “Oh yeah? Well we’re going to force every iPhone owner to have their wallpaper set to a picture of a naked fat guy taking a dump. A couple weeks of that and you’ll quit your bitching.” Only for the NFL the glitch is concussions and the refs are a naked fat guy taking a dump.
—Hungry Dan, Bedford

I’m pretty sure the locked-out referees union is paying the scab umpires to throw games and give themselves more leverage. I think this is the biggest sports scandal since Michael Stuhlbarg went back in time and paid off the 1919 White Sox on the advice of Tim Donaghy
—Dominic, Sydney, AU

On your BS Report with Cousin Sal Monday you mentioned one of your readers suggesting it would be a great publicity stunt if Romney donated $50 million of his untaxed money to get the refs to back. Romney obviously isn’t spending what should be the governments money to restore order to America’s sport, but why wouldn’t a beer company take this idea and run with it? If Budweiser paid the refs what they were asking to come back by Thursday, wouldn’t it instantly become the most popular beer in America? Are you telling me that any football fan standing in front of the refrigerator at a convenience store picking up a 30 pack before the 1 p.m. games ISN’T choosing Bud Light over every other beer from now on? They can even get a little patch on the back of the ref’s uniforms that says “Don’t forget who made this happen” and has their logo. There’s no way that making commercials about a savant dog who fetches beers and rolls on kegs at the lamest pool party ever is a better way to spend advertising money. This seems almost too obvious.
—Nate Wise, NYC

I finally got around to reading last week’s picks column today and I thought the bit about the replacement refs and gambling lines was a bit far-fetched. Then tonight happened. Then I remembered that the Packers were giving 3.5 points.
—Patrick T., Madison, WI

Goodell has completely nullified the Notorious D.J.S.’ reputation as the most arrogant, egotistical, Don-like American sport commissioner in the span of a few short weeks, a reputation which D.J.S. has crafted, nurtured, and polished over a quarter century with all the care of a 19th century Swiss watch maker. The fans are one drunk knucklehead away from inciting a full blown stadium riot, which you KNOW would be hundreds of times worse than the Malice in the Palace. The scabs look about as lost and confused as Ron Artest in a tranquil suburban environment. And most shockingly of all, the NFL referees are suddenly the GOOD GUYS! Hello, leverage. Hello, favorable contract. The real beauty of all this is that the debacle may have awakened a sleeping black and white giant for the refs. Seriously, tell me how the NFLRA won’t be able to extort the league for the rest of eternity by simply threatening a repeat of 2012 every few years?
—Cameron Knight, Houston

I vote for this whole blown call debacle to be dubbed “The Golden Mistake.” But, some genius is going to go with “Golden Gate.”
—Graham, Muncie

Filed Under: Green Bay Packers, NFL, Roger Goodell, Seattle Seahawks

Bill Simmons is the founding editor of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

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