NFL Week 2: Are the Replacement Officials Destroying the Integrity of the Game?

Eric EdwardsContributor IIISeptember 18, 2012

Is the integrity of the NFL adversely affected with the absence of veteran officials like Ed "The Incredible" Hochuli?
Is the integrity of the NFL adversely affected with the absence of veteran officials like Ed "The Incredible" Hochuli?Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Two weeks into the NFL season and the narrative about the replacement officials has changed from the threat of games being lost because of poor officiating to players being at risk of injury because of it. As far as this long time fan is concerned, both arguments are crocks.

Let’s start with the premise that games are going to be decided because of missed calls or bad calls by the replacement zebras. The NFL talking heads at an unnamed Connecticut based network are all atwitter about the calls the officials have botched and how they are going to ultimately cost some team a game down the line. Now, I’m not going to say that couldn’t happen because it is a real possibility. But if it does, how is that any different from the status quo?

I seem to remember a few years back on a Thanksgiving Day broadcast veteran referee Phil Luckett blowing the overtime coin toss in a Steelers-Lions game that eventually led to a Steelers loss. I also seem to remember some horrid officiating that cost the Seattle Seahawks a fair shot at winning a Super Bowl, and Ed “The Incredible” Hochuli being caught up in a serious snafu back in 2008 that cost San Diego a game. So if the replacements cost someone a game this season it will be a shame, but it won’t be unique in the annals of the NFL’s history.

As for the argument that missed or blown calls are somehow going to lead to player injuries, as was asserted by NFLPA official George Attalah on the September 18, 2012 OTL Daily program on that unnamed network, I call BS!

I have been watching football as a fan since the Cowboys drafted Tony Dorsett, and I have seen a lot of players get injured in that time. But never, not once, has it been because a ref failed to make a call or made a mistake on a call.

The NFL right now is dealing with the long term effects of concussions on players, and I have yet to hear any of the affected players or their attorneys blaming the refs for it. I have watched great players go down with horrific concussions (Steve Young); broken legs (Joe Theismann); torn knee ligaments (George Andrews); and serious spinal injuries (Michael Irvin) and on none of those plays were the actions of the officials called into question.

You know why that is? Because the officials can do absolutely nothing about player injuries and we all know it. Officials are like police officers, they cannot keep a person from breaking the law/rules; they can only react afterward and apply the proper penalty. I mean, if officials could prevent player injuries then why didn’t they prevent James Harrison from causing so many concussions or from getting injured himself?

The argument being made is just one that advances the new media narrative about the terrible, horrible, awful jobs that the replacement officials are doing and how it is going to cause player injuries. It is simply a scare tactic and a way to advance the official union’s push to get very well paid part time employees a sweet benefit package, including pensions. And the best way to get public opinion on the side of the officials and get some public pressure on the NFL to capitulate is to convince fans that the game is being altered, that its integrity is undermined by the use of replacement officials.

Well, they can color me unconvinced. While the replacements aren’t exactly doing a ban-up job, they aren’t nearly as bad as we would be led to believe. By picking out the absolute worst of the official’s work the attempt is made to paint all of them with that broad brush. Well I’m not buying what the media, the official’s union, and the NFLPA are selling. I don’t watch the games to see the officials; I watch to see the players compete. So as long as that doesn’t change, I doubt very much that the fans are going to run screaming from the game because Ed Hochuli isn’t on the field.