The 2012 NFL season started Wednesday night with replacement officials. Few people are in a more untenable situation. If they do a decent job of officiating games, the impression will be that anyone can do it and that was what they were supposed to do. If they impact the result of a game through a mistake (a distinct possibility), the furor will resound through the league and with fans, coaches and players demanding to bring the locked out officials back.
As would be expected, full-time football player, part-time musician and part-time social media activist Chris Kluwe represented the Occupy Winter Park forces when he took to the Internet to get his point across.
In what has become a trademark rambling missive to the editors of the website Deadspin.com, Kluwe summed up his feelings (more accurately, we sum it up). The full diatribe is available here:
To make a long story short (clearly too late if you clicked that link), Kluwe isn't happy about the replacement referees – whether it's on the dozen or so plays of a game that he's involved in or the many more when he isn't. He said what he needed to say at the outset of his letter.
"The replacement refs are bad," Kluwe wrote. "There's no way around it. None! Whether it's the pressure of live television on the sport's largest stage or just an inability to do the job, these guys are making football increasingly painful to watch as a player, and I'm certain it's just as frustrating for the fans. It's like a watching a Lamborghini roll around on eight-inch spare tires. Not good."
Not everyone shared Kluwe's militant stance toward the replacement refs. Erin Henderson tried to distance himself from the discussion – only to point out some of the more obvious foibles from the officials in the Vikings preseason finale with Houston.
"I don't have anything to do with that," Henderson said. "I can't control them. I can't control how they do things – what they do or don't call. I did find it very entertaining when we were in Houston to hear them get booed for some of the calls they were making and how they were making the calls more so than anything."
Perhaps the most insightful assessment came from linebacker Chad Greenway. He compared the replacement refs to green rookies that are a bit out of their element making the jump to the NFL. However, when a player makes a mistake, he gets called to the carpet by the head coach. When a ref blows a play, it stands and the official stays in the game.
"It's just like a player," Greenway said. "If you have players that lack experience, there are going to be mistakes that are going to be made. I think it's just a realistic point of view. I don't think that's a strong opinion. But the thing you worry about as a player is (the replacement referees have) got to take care of (player) health, obviously, and not make a mistake that is going to change the outcome of a game. Those are things we have deal with – even with the (refs) that are there all the time. We know it's a tough situation. It's a tough job to have. But we're all going to live and learn and see what happens. It's just going to be the way it has to be for now."
The 2012 season got underway Wednesday night and, for the most part, the referees went unnoticed. Did they blow some calls? Sure. Did any of them directly impact the final result of the game? No.
So far, so good. Here's hoping Sunday's Vikings-Jaguars game and many others won't be the straw that breaks the impasse because of a horribly flawed call. One can only imagine that since Sunday's game will only be televised in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and a portion of Florida, the Vikings and Jags won't get the "A" list officials. But, considering that the guy who headed up Wednesday's officials crew was a middle school teacher from Idaho, there may not be "A" list officials available for any of the remaining 15 games of Week 1.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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