Ripping Refs Is For Losers

September 17, 2012 | Thyrl Nelson

We need to put this situation with the NFL officials to bed quickly…period.

By saying that I’m not suggesting that the league needs to cave into the demands of the referees’ union (although that’s what I have been saying all along). What I am suggesting is that the players need to forget that the officials on the field are replacements and just play ball. Until further notice the replacement officials are the officials and no amount of whining, complaining or otherwise is going to change that. Funny that for all of the complaining that the players, players union etc have done regarding the replacement officials, the one thing we haven’t heard from them is a willingness make up the difference and help bridge the gap that exists between what the refs want and what the league is offering.


Officiating is pretty easy to judge no matter who’s doing it. When your team wins a close game the referees were great (or at least competent) and when your team loses a close game the refs were incompetent. Let’s not start trying to paint some overly romantic, revisionist history portrait of the officials that aren’t there as if we had any respect for them or their calls while they were.


Being new, it’s a certainty that officials are going to have growing pains. Of course they’ll be slower. And since everyone is aware that they’re replacements everyone is on high alert for their mistakes and deficiencies. Game announcers are looking for mistakes to point out and players are constantly barking at our about the replacement officials any time the action in the game isn’t going their way.


It’s become the norm that after any NFL game decided by a small margin, the referees will be taken to task. We as fans have grown to expect it. We expect it on talk radio, on Twitter, on the message boards and on the highlight shows. We didn’t however expect it from the players in the locker room before this season…not if they wanted to keep their full game checks that is.


I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I agreed with everything the officials did in the Ravens game against the Eagles on Sunday (far from it actually). But I never agree with everything the officials do when the Ravens lose a close one. Remember the Terrell Suggs “head slap” on Kerry Collins a few years ago? Remember the Torrey Smith holding call against the Steelers last year on a would-be Ray Rice TD?


That said, I’m also not going to sit here and pretend that I’m not more concerned (far more concerned in fact) with the players’ insinuations during and after the game that the referees had somehow cost them the game or had it out for them. Remember Bart Scott’s penalty flag toss into the stands against the Patriots in 2007? Bad call…perhaps. Indication that a team was set to melt down…absolutely.


Here are 5 non-officiating related reasons why the Ravens lost to the Eagles on Sunday:

1. The offensive line couldn’t stop the pass rush


Joe Flacco was forced to throw under duress for the majority of the night. Maybe it was the Ravens abandonment of the hurry-up that has served them so well through the pre-season and in week one, or maybe the Eagles just have real talent at rushing the passer. Whatever the cause, the Ravens offensive line couldn’t hold off the Philly rush and the result was a stagnant offense. The Eagles made the offensive line of the Ravens on Sunday look like what we feared they would be, makeshift and patchwork. Meanwhile Philly down to their only 5 healthy offensive linemen did a marvelous job of keeping the pass rush away from Michael Vick, particularly in the second half.

3 Comments For This Post

  1. Mike Says:

    The idea that officiating crews do not affect the outcomes of games is at least perplexing and at most misguided. How can they not. If they didn’t you could make a case to get rid of them. To simply say that players have to overcome the mistakes of refs is, well, silly in a way and at the same time, true to some extent. Just like each team has to overcome what their opponent does. However, that is not to say that the mistakes of refs don’t affect and in some cases determine the outcome of games. Just like when the refs get it right – it also has an effect on the outcome. You cannot ignore refs’ mistakes anymore than you can ignore players’ mistakes or coaches’ mistakes. They all count and have a determining power in the equation. You cannot remove any one of them – either they all count or none of them do. Not to mention every time some talking head “expert” says the officials’ screw-ups don’t matter, the players just didn’t play hard enough – the NFL, MLB, NBA – all of them breathe a sigh of relief, “Ah, not being held accountable again.” No matter how concrete one is in their thinking, this is a simple and easily understood concept. This does not absolve players from putting forth maximum effort. It does not excuse coaches from putting-forth their maximum either. The officials overseeing the games – must be held to the same standard. And, on those occasions where coaches and players do their share, but the refs don’t – it does not dishonor any inherent truth about sports competition or life in general for that – to point it out. Though it is rare that an official’s gaffe outright determines the outcome of a game, when it does, it falls to you to acknowledge and even to assess blame. Indeed it is the duty of those in observation and commentary of these events, as is done for players and coaches, to do just that. It is a part of the calling. An important facet of what you do to protect the games we watch. If you will put yourself behind the paper and pencil, or the typewriter or computer or behind microphone, you take on this mantle.

  2. Timm Rogowski Says:


    Was that your thesis on “butt hurt” that you wrote to earn your doctorate?


    All Nelson is intimating by this article/blog is to NOT blame the refs for EVERY single loss.

    Ravens fans are notorious for this.

    One look at Facebook feeds will get how the league favors Pittsburgh and how the league hates Baltimore hence shoddy officiating which costs them games.

    It’s never Flacco’s failures and never can Ray Lewis miss a tackle but it is always that one call that should have been a first down or a touchdown that was the difference.

    If you can score a bunch more points than your opponent and NOT TURN THE BALL OVER, you will put yourself in such a place that a few bad calls won’t have the chance to cost you the game.

    THIS is what Nelson is implying.

    Play better. Score more. Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges in a fight by knocking out your opponent.

    Also, paper and pencil and typewriter?

    Do you still think sportswriters look like Jack Klugman from The Odd Couple?

  3. Mike Says:

    All fans everywhere complain about officiating, not just Raven’s fans. If you listen to fans in Pittsburgh they claim the refs are out to get them. I am saying that the refs have to be accountable just like the players and the coaches. What is wrong with that? They are integral to the process and when they don’t hold up their end, they impact the results. I am not saying that one should blame them for ANY loss, let alone “EVERY” loss. But if you allow substandard officiating, then you can’t complain about substandard coaching or play. They all count. This does not change the dynamic of effort required from the players and coaches. I don’t understand why anyone would think that holding the NFL and the officials they put forth accountable means that players and coaches get a pass. It doesn’t. Some of the animus toward the players is rooted in the amount of money they are paid. Many fans believe they should not have a say because they are earning huge paychecks. Rest assure, the NFL is happy to hear it. They much prefer not being held accountable. Call the players and coaches down all you want. But to function under the mistaken belief that bad officiating doesn’t have an impact on the game, I just don’t get it. And pointing out bad officiating is not whining – if you are in the reporting business it would be doing your job. Paper, and pencil and typewriters – I am willing to bet that there is some old-guy out there still using them. I didn’t want to leave him out. As for a doctoral thesis on “butt hurt.” No, I never reach that vaunted level of education. But I have the capacity to observe and learn. I hope to do so as long as I am breathing on my own. I would hope everyone would.

Leave a Reply