Bill Plaschke: NFL losing credibility with each blown call by replacement refs

By Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times Modified: September 24, 2012 at 11:57 pm •  Published: September 25, 2012

The fans have spoken. Did you hear the cursing chant from Baltimore? When the Ravens faithful had finally endured enough of the NFL's arrogance Sunday, they rained a unified two-syllable expletive down upon the fake officials that walloped millions of television viewers like a Ray Lewis forearm. I've heard that curse chanted before, but it's never been so consistently loud, and never so amazingly long.

The players have spoken. Less than a week after the NFL ordered its personnel to stop harassing the paper zebras because “everybody has a responsibility to respect the game,” one guy was still so angry he put it in writing. Brandon Spikes, linebacker for the New England Patriots, tweeted, “Can some 1 please tell these (expletive) zebras foot locker called and they're needed Back at work!!!!” His hashtag was a perfect description of the situation. It read, #BreakingPoint.

Finally, at the lowest moment of what may have been the most shameful Sunday in the history of the NFL, the game's finest coach also spoke. Bill Belichick was so upset after his Patriots lost to the Ravens in the day's final debacle, he grabbed at one of the replacement officials in an act of rage rarely seen in a league where a head coach has never been ejected from a game.

To all these words, there is only one thing to add, a suggestion to Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding a referee lockout that is now threatening the league's integrity while indelibly staining his legacy.

Give it up. It's over. Your power play didn't work. Officials are not cardboard cutouts who can be replaced with cheap facsimiles. The decorum of your sport cannot be enforced by substitute teachers. The safety of your players cannot be monitored by crossing guards. The administration of your game cannot be handled by temps.

Cut your losses. End this lockout now. Show who you are. Show what your game means. Prove that the new national pastime is not just another corrupt old business. Prove that you really respect the game more than your need to win this labor fight. Do you really care about the health of your players as much as the health of your league's bank account? Has all this recent cracking down on cracking heads been sincere or just spin?

End this lockout before it irreparably damages the season while indelibly staining your legacy. End it before Thursday begins a fourth weekend of controlled chaos.

Want to know my favorite statistic of Week 3? Sixteen of 20 coach's challenges resulted in overturned calls, meaning officials made the wrong decision on 80 percent of some of the biggest plays. Think about that.

Want to know my second-favorite statistic? When you crunch the numbers, if the NFL gave the locked-out referees everything they wanted, it would cost about $100,000 extra per team per season. That equals about four games' pay for one of the team's lowest-paid players. The owners are watching their sport burn because they won't improve the officials' compensation by about one-fourth the amount they would pay a backup guard? Think about that.