The NFL opened its season in New York last night with replacement officials. To be honest, the new referees did a pretty good job in the game between the Giants and Cowboys. Sure, they had a couple of hiccups and they called a lot of penalties, but they didn't have a major impact on the game.
The relative decency of the referees in the season opener certainly won't help the NFL Referee Association's stance in negotiations with the league. Nobody comes to watch the referees in the first place--sorry, Ed Hochuli, not even you and your triceps. If the new scab refs didn't royally screw things up under the bright lights of the national stage in their first go-round, maybe the new guys won't be so bad. Right?
Not so fast. The NFL knows that there are millions more sets of eyes on the nationally televised games. So it should come as no surprise that Adam Schefter reported on SportsCenter that the league plans on sending their best replacement officials to the biggest games.
Sending the best available referees to the best-looking games sounds great for the marquee teams in those games. But how about the teams that are playing in the, um, less than ideal matchups?
Let's face it--even if Sunday's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars has some sort of crazy ending, there's no chance that Chris Berman and Tom Jackson are going to lead The Blitz with highlights from the game. The Vikes and Jags are towards the bottom of just about every expert's preseason power rankings. Can you blame them? The two teams combined for a record of 8-24 in 2011.
Just to drive home the point that this game isn't huge on the NFL's radar, each team's marquee player most likely won't be used in their full capacities. Adrian Peterson is working his way back from a severely injured knee and Maurice Jones-Drew just ended a lengthy contract holdout. If the Giants and Cowboys were treated to the best of the new officials, it's safe to assume that the bottom of the barrel will be scraped to fill out the referee crew at the Metrodome on Sunday.
But really, how bad can it be? Well, to hear Vikings punter Chris Kluwe tell it on Deadspin Wednesday, pretty darn bad. Missed calls are just the beginning of the problems with replacement officials for Kluwe:
It seems as if, after every call, all 35 refs come sprinting in to discuss the merits of Kafka's Metamorphosis as it relates to the economy of Bangladesh, and just when you think they've finally figured it out, they reconvene for Round 2. Then Round 3. I saw a baby born in the stadium reach full walking status during one ref conference, and at the end of it, when they finally announced something, no one had any idea whether it was even the right decision or not. We didn't care at that point; we just wanted to move on to the next play so we could finish the game before the Mayan apocalypse. I am slightly curious how the TV networks are going to handle eight-hour games.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Just because the nation saw some decent refereeing during Wednesday night's game, don't assume that the people lucky enough to watch the Vikings/Jags game will get the same luxury on Sunday.