The Replacement Refs’ Guide to Officiating the NFL

Posted on
Sep 25, 2012

Greetings, replacement refs!

I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the officiating that’s gone on so far this season in the NFL.

It probably seems weird that I, a travel writer, am weighing in on this issue. I realize I’m sort of unqualified to do so. I’ve never played football, and I’ve only seen one game live, but I can scream “HOW IS THAT NOT A HOLDING VIOLATION?” at the TV with the best of them.

And besides, not having an extensive football background doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone else from being an expert this season, right? My opinion is just as valid as that of the real estate agent calling the Monday Night Game, or the menagerie of farm animals in striped shirts the league has ready to officiate the playoffs (I will give them this: that is a great way to boost ratings among toddlers. “PUPPY PUPPY PUPPY!” will be shouted across living rooms throughout the land while adult fans of the game will weep into their beers).

Yes, yes. Fine, Anton. You can be the line judge.


So I’m weighing in.

Here’s the thing: crap is going downhill, and it’s going downhill fast. I’m talking, like, a tidal wave of poop here, guys. People are not happy. When a friggin Vikings fan sides with Green Bay, you realize just how much of a mess the league is in. Hell, when the winning team thinks that they didn’t legitimately beat their competitors, you have problems.

Good heavens. Even the president is calling you guys out, and it’s an election year. He isn’t going to say stuff that will get him in trouble, you know?

I realize that you are totally in over your heads, and you’re doing the best that you can. I get it. Recently my husband rented a car in Ireland, and was tasked with trying to drive stick shift (something he had done approximately one time in his life, roughly a decade ago) while driving on THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE ROAD. And believe me when I tell you he did his darndest, but that didn’t really matter. The car kept sputtering and dying and he stalled the engine at least a dozen times or so.

Good intentions are horseshit when you don’t know what the hell you are doing.

Sigh. My beloved.

Despite his best attempts, people got really frustrated because he shouldn’t have been on the damn road in the first place. We just should have ponyed up the extra cash and had a professional take us where we needed to go.

See where I’m going with this analogy? You guys NEED TO GET OUT OF THE CAR BEFORE YOU HURT SOMEONE.

What’s that? You can’t simply abandon the vehicle in the middle of the street? Well, that’s very professional of you. I can’t imagine why the Lingerie Football League let you go. But you can’t continue officiating like you have been, either.

So I’ve pulled together a list of suggestions and guidelines for you guys that might improve your calls of the game. Feel free to print them out and tuck them into the dust jacket of your copy of NFL Officiating for Dummies.

  • Empirical evidence is your friend. If say, a team like the Seattle Seahawks (who are famously known for being able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory) manages to somehow beat the Packers in a shocking last-minute upset, THEY PROBABLY DIDN’T.
  • When an offensive team runs more than 20 yards on a single play, just call a holding penalty, okay? Because there probably was one that you missed.
  • If a snap happened too quickly and you get scared or confused, just call “Offsides”. Nobody understands that penalty, anyway.
  • Each team gets three time-outs per half. You’ll probably want to write that down somewhere.
  • If someone calls a time-out, they’ve CALLED A TIME-OUT. No backsies.
  • Don’t say a team scored a touchdown unless they actually did. I know it’s super fun to make the touchdown signal (it’s kind of like doing the beginning of the YMCA dance), but we don’t want to repeat the Testaverde debacle of the 90s. You guys have the benefit of instantly replay. You should probably use it.
  • Stop referring to Tom Brady as “McDreamy.”
  • Sigh. No. NO, you cannot assign 4 points for a field go just because you think that “kickers are underappreciated.”
  • Flipping a coin may only be used to determine which team is kicking and which team is receiving prior to the start of the game (and during overtime). It should not be used for, say, figuring out whether or not a player was inbounds.
  • “I don’t want to disappoint the home team” is not a proper justification for why you made a call.
  • If one player accidentally grazes another player’s mask with his hand, that shouldn’t really count as illegal hands to the face. But when a player’s head is yanked at a 90-degree angle because another player GRABBED HIM BY THE FACE MASK, you probably should call that penalty.
  • Please do your best to maintain objectivity during the game. Try not to openly cheer when one side scores, and consider covering up your “FARVE WAS FRAMED” tattoo.
  • When you repeatedly refer to the Denver Broncos as “the Denver Horses”, it significantly damages your credibility.
  • Prior to a game, it is not advisable to rub your hands together and say to your fellow refs, “Well, gentleman, care to make this interesting?”
  • Do not encourage the offensive team to go for it on fourth down just so you don’t have to move all the way over to other side of the field.
  • Punishing Aaron Rodgers for “Encroachment … on my heart” is not a viable penalty. But man, do I hear you.
  • There are four quarters in regulation football game, and not five. I know that gets confusing. Just think of a dollar. You know how there are four quarters in a dollar? It’s like that.

    No, I’m absolutely positive there aren’t five quarters in a dollar.
  • The following are unacceptable nicknames for Eli Manning: Little Peyton. Manning the Lesser. Junior Gorg. 

    For the record, I love them both.

  • If you find yourself in disagreement with someone, please note that the phrase “Well, that’s not how we did it in the XFL” does not strengthen your position.
  • For the last time, no one on the Giants wants to read your Girl With the Dragon Tattoo fan fiction.
  • If you accidentally drop a flag, please retrieve it. Don’t randomly come up with a penalty so you don’t have to bend over.
  • I don’t care what year you think it is, the Houston Oilers are NO LONGER A TEAM.
  • If one player catches a ball and has full possession of it, and another player gets his arm stuck in there (which would have been offensive pass interference, anyway), it shouldn’t count as simultaneous possession. That’s like standing naked outside of someone’s bedroom window and claiming that you had sex.
  • Stop referring to Michael Oher as “that kid from The Blind Side.”
  • Don’t quit your day job.

Sigh. That’s about all the feedback I have, gentleman. Please, please start making slightly better calls, okay? I didn’t spend all that time learning the ins and outs of the game just to end up watching baseball.

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