NFL officiating: Quality control is back
I’ve said it many times. The NFL is all about quality control. The quality of its franchises are exquisitely controlled. The competitiveness of its games are wonderfully monitored. Down to what its coaches wear on the sidelines, the NFL is a finely-tuned organization.
Then the league locked out its officials. And quality control flew the coop.
Forget, for a moment, the Green Bay-Seattle fiasco. Forget the Denver-Atlanta marathon. Or the Baltimore-New England scrum. Forget any individual game or call. And just focus on the feel of any particular NFL game run by the replacements refs.
Recess. Anarchy. While the cat’s away, the mice will play. Lord of the Flies football. Substitute-teacher syndrome. Even when the players generally behaved themselves, you got a sense that there was no adult supervision. The substitute teacher analogy is strong. I can remember seventh-grade, eight-grade subs, sitting reading out of lesson plans, and not one person paying attention.
That was the atmosphere at NFL games. The inmates had taken over the asylum.
Then Thursday night arrived in Baltimore, and the most remarkable scene was not the ovation reserved for the returning officials. Or the well-called game that reminded us how a pro football game is supposed to flow. Or the forthrightness of the officiating. Quick, decisive, firm.
The most remarkable scene was the smiles on the face of the officials. These guys were grinning from ear to ear. I’ve never seen that before. NFL officials come off as robots. Faceless and mostly nameless. But in Baltimore on Thursday night, they looked like they had just arrived in Ocean City for two weeks at the beach.
And here’s what struck me. During the chaos of the last three weeks, no one cringed at the officiating more than the locked-out officials. It would be natural for the locked-out refs to cheer when the substitutes called a Seattle touchdown, because it helped the negotiating cause, but inside, you know it had to be eating at them to see their game go down the toilet.
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