The NFL replacement refs who officiated Monday night’s game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks have stimulated an amount of foaming-at-the-mouth vitriol that I have never witnessed before. People are out for blood, saying the integrity of the game has been completely eroded.
But the league may be putting something even more important than its integrity at substantial risk. It could actually be putting human lives in danger.
Before you immediately dismiss that statement as nothing more than ridiculous hyperbole, take yourself back to the seconds before referee Wayne Elliott made the touchdown official after viewing the replay. What do you think would have happened if he had made what 95 percent of America thinks was the right call?
I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say people would have been injured or worse. Seattle, like a lot of league cities, has incredibly passionate fans. They shout at a decibel level that could break glass. More than a few of them probably had quite a few cold beers during the game or snuck in more potent forms of alcohol.
If Elliott had ruled the play an interception, thus giving the game to the Packers, it’s not at all beyond the realm of possibility that people would have been incensed to the point of physical violence. All kinds of projectiles would have been tossed, causing who knows what sort of damage. Any Green Bay fan – especially one brazen enough to be wearing a jersey, hat or a cheesehead – would have been a walking target, either inside the stadium or outside in the parking lot.
I’m still of the opinion that any referee, no matter how experienced, may have made the same decision. What would you have done if you thought your words could very well incite a riot? Since Elliott is a replacement ref, though, the anger would have been that much more intense and added even more fuel to the fire.
Maybe I’m full of it. Maybe I’m shouting “the sky is falling” without anything solid to back it up.
But this scenario is going to repeat itself. A replacement ref is going to make a bad call that costs a team a game, and maybe even a playoff spot. The next time it happens, the decision may not be in favor of the home team. If that’s the case, the combination of passion and alcohol could create a disaster.
The morons in charge of negotiations in this idiotic lockout don’t seem to be driven to action by replacement ref mistakes. It may take something as drastic as someone being seriously hurt or killed to make them finally come to their senses.
Let’s obviously hope it doesn’t come to that.