Noticeable Difference?

They were ruining ‘America’s game.’ It was a travesty.

Well, the real referees were back this past week. But could you really tell the difference?

Of course you could. It was obvious. The replacement refs were so bad that anything was going to be better than the supposed disgrace that Roger Goodell allowed to happen.

Sure, the difference between the real refs and the replacements was obvious. Just like it was obvious to these people on the street that the iPhone 5 was clearly better than the iPhone 4S. Too bad those people didn’t realize that the good people from the Jimmy Kimmel Show were pulling a fast one on them and that they were, in fact, testing out the iPhone 4S, a phone which a number of them already had.

The hatred towards the replacement refs was a classic example of the public buying into media generated hype 101. From the preseason on, the media set the stage for that W-T-F moment. The stuttering on the announcement of a penalty and the inevitable bad call in the course of a game was going to be foreshadowing for their inevitable failure.

The public drank up every ounce of the hater-ade.

FoxSports analyst and former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira wrote a very critical article after week 2 about the replacements yet was only able to cite relatively trivial issues.

The blown non-interception that upset more than a few cheese heads in Wisconsin was what everyone was waiting for. People said it was a disgrace to the game but it is exactly what everyone wanted, especially the media. They pounded on it like a hungry Lion waiting in the tall grass only to have a wounded gazelle stumble on by. The replacement refs were the wounded gazelle.

They never stood a chance.

The media used the replacement refs as if they were a placebo drug. The media scientists told us precisely what they were going to do to us and people put the blinders on and looked only for evidence that would fulfill that prophecy. The public’s mind became set on the replacement refs being terrible and nothing was going to get in the way of that.

This past week should have shown us all that the replacement refs were not all that bad.

For the first 3 weeks, legions of fans echoed a similar sentiment of ‘you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.’ However, week 4 was more like getting back together with that ex-girlfriend you wanted to get back with so badly but after getting her back you wondered why you ever missed her so much in the first place.

I can bet that if we didn’t know that the referees were replacements through the first weeks, the difference fans were truly aware of would have been minimal.

The lack of excessive pushing and shoving kerfuffle’s was no doubt noticeable in week 4 but, again, this was really more of a minor issue than anything. The biggest problem critics of the replacement refs had with regards to this was that it slowed down the game. Okay then, the average time of games through the first three weeks was 3 hours and 14 minutes. The average time of games for week 4 was 3 hours and 8 minutes.

In case you weren’t able to do the math, that’s a 6 minute difference.

An absolute farce?

The replacement refs were subject to this double standard that they were ruining the integrity of the game or as some fans liked to say, “our game.” Each blown call was met with criticism of ridiculous proportions. Luckily for the refs this past week, they were subject to a reprieve on most anything because, for some reason, there was this unreasonable standard placed on the replacement refs that crucial mistakes would not be tolerated.

But were the refs ruining the integrity of the game this past week when Darren Sproles was ruled down by contact even though he clearly fumbled? When the Eagles were flagged for consecutive non-existent pass interference calls late in the game? When the Cleveland Browns received an illegitimate shot at a final second miracle against the Ravens?

Didn’t think so.

The replacement officials seemed so bad simply because everyone was so caught up in condemning and scrutinizing their every move. It isn’t that the replacement referees were just as good as the real referees, it’s that they weren’t nearly as bad as they were portrayed to be.

I guess people just forgot that the real referees make gigantic game-altering mistakes as well.

In the moment though, it is so easy to forget what happened in the past. I mean, people already seem to have forgotten Lebron James embarrassed the city of Cleveland on national television to create his super team.

Thing is, the replacement refs were never tarnishing ‘America’s game.’

You just wanted to think they were.

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