We live in a world of good and evil — there always needs to be a bad guy, a Darth Vader to a Luke Skywalker. In the NFL fans usually reserve these ill feelings for rival opponents or popular “bandwagon” teams. But that hate was united and directed at the replacement refs, or “scab” refs as they were more widely referred to. Now a man who was pelted with verbal stones of flaming rage has spoken up asked as question all the refs that were blasted are asking: what the hell guys?
It’s no secret that the replacement refs were not very good at their jobs, but Jeff Sadorus recently spoke to The New York Times and said he and fellow “scab’s” got a lot more grief than they deserved and it’s not the refs that should be blamed for taking attention away from the game, it’s the fans who focused on mistakes rather than football.
“Honestly, sometimes during this whole thing, it felt like the national pastime in this country had changed from football to bashing replacement officials,” said Sadorus. “Everyone wanted perfection, but come on: The last guy who was perfect they nailed to a cross. And he wasn’t even an official.”
Every single call that replacement refs made seemed to be broken down like a film student dissecting The Godfather or Citizen Kane. The gestures refs made, their nervous tone of voice and timid actions were all broken down the same as tape of a quarterback would be. ESPN was as hot and bothered for these replacement refs as they are for everything Tim Tebow breathes on and that’s saying something.
But the hate towards refs got a bit jaded as the weeks went by and they were portrayed less and less as human beings and more and more like manchurian candidates of Satan sent to destroy the game of football. Sadorus highlights this in his interview with the Times and sounds wounded by the ferocity of the angst from fans directed at him and fellow officials. Good or bad, Sadorus feels he was hired to do a job and his performance in that job he didn’t ask for shouldn’t make him less of a man.
“We worked very, very hard. As demonized as we were, I hope people remember that we are people, too.”
This has to be remembered as order begins to be restored to the NFL this weekend: these guys didn’t try to fail. They didn’t go Tim Donaghy and fix games for finical purposes. They couldn’t help the fact they were a rag-tag bunch of Barney Fifes, they just did the job they were asked to. Be mad at the owners, not the guys who stepped up when no one else would. Was it memorable — you bet, but probably not in the way these refs would have liked.
But it happened, and it’s in the past so let’s move on. However, let’s reflect on how we acted in all this. Our wives and children weren’t being burned at the stake by these refs, our mothers weren’t being raped whilst sugar was being poured into our gas tanks by these refs. They blew calls, a game was decided by it and maybe your mood was ruined. In the grans scheme of things, this wasn’t that big of a deal.
The real refs are back, order has been restored but in a matter of weeks these fans will be complaining just the same about blown calls. Ed Hochuli famously blew a call at the end of a Broncos-Chargers game that decided the outcome. Hochuli is being praised as though he’s Christ coming back to life. We can be happy that the refs are back, but lest we forget how ugly all aspects of this referee lockout was.