This is not another column from a cranky sportswriter complaining about the NFL’s use of replacement officials during the first three weeks of the season.
Listening to the national outcry on sports talk shows and in newspaper stories, you might have thought that replacement officials’ officiating quality had caused the world to come to an end.
The fact is the pettiness and selfishness players and coaches revealed during the lockout was the bigger story.
Coaches and players whined and pointed fingers at the officials. That’s hardly new, but the degree to which they complained was excessive. But then, it has always been easier to blame someone else for a loss than accept responsibility.
If you must know, it all started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve for taking a bite out of the forbidden fruit and Eve blamed the serpent. Has anything really changed?
When you simultaneously bring in about 120 officials who have never officiated an NFL game, should we be surprised with some inconsistencies in enforcing the rules?
A New York Daily News headline said, “NFL replacement officials aren’t great, but players and coaches must take some responsibility for games getting out of control.”
In that article, Hank Gola said, “Take John Fox on the sidelines Monday night. He was apoplectic over every call made, even the one for 12 men on the field that was proven right by replay. He was pointing both index fingers at the refs with a crazed look on his face. And he was wrong. Think he would’ve acted the same way in the same situation with regular refs?”
The bigger problem was respecting the people who are asked to arbitrate the game. It’s a problem that rears its ugly head in everything from city recreation programs to high school, college and professional sports.
The best analogy I heard compared the use of replacement officials to a substitute teacher taking over a class for a few days. Students quickly take advantage of the situation in much the same way as players and coaches pushed the limits with replacement officials.
Writing on ESPN.com, Gregg Easterbrook said, “Bad enough when players lose their cool—coaches never should.
“There’s a character question here, too. One measure of a person’s character is how he or she treats those who earn substantially less. (New England coach) Belichick is wealthy. The replacement zebras are middle-school teachers and small-college officials.
“For Belichick, a celebrity, to scream at a middle-class unknown is like Donald Trump screaming at a McDonald’s clerk. Belichick needs to take a look in the mirror.
“Belichick was mad about a ticky-tacky defensive holding call that nullified a third-down sack before Baltimore’s final touchdown. But he didn’t seem too angry about a nearly identical ticky-tacky call that nullified a Baltimore interception with 2:28 showing.”
Jemele Hill also had a good observation: “It says something that the coaches and players think it’s fair game to take advantage of the situation, and it’s even more shameful that they seem to be using the officials to absolve themselves of responsibility. NFL coaches are constantly preaching accountability to their players, and how important it is to exemplify leadership in any circumstance.
“They want the officials to make them act like grown men—something they should be doing regardless. But that’s not the message that’s sent when they treat the officials so disrespectfully. By acting out of control, coaches are empowering their players to behave the same way.”
Contrast that with Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, whose team lost after a controversial call on the last play of the game to Seattle. In his post-game news conference he first stated that he wouldn’t address the officiating. He took the blame for the Packers’ inept offensive performance in their 14-12 loss.
His reaction after such a bizarre finish is the definition of maturity and professionalism.
Or as Hill wrote, “In other words, that’s how a coach is supposed to behave.”