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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No Such Thing as Overpaying

It had to be done.

The Washington Redskins were in a bidding war that they happily won. Their prize is the most electrifying and talented quarterbacks to come out of college since Michael Vick. The Redskins may have given up a lot of draft picks but this sacrifice was one with the future in mind.

For a franchise quarterback, there is almost no such thing as overpaying.

There are no guarantees in life. Robert Griffin III could very well be the next Ryan Leaf. He could be the next Alex Smith. Heck, I don’t even think Nostradamus were alive today he could tell us what’s in store for RGIII. Nevertheless, the Washington Redskins are doing the right thing.

I could go on for days about the follies of risking the future for the now. I chastised Hue Jackson for acquiring Carson Palmer. I questioned Julio Jones prior to Thomas Dimitroff’s draft day gamble. I lamented over Randy Moss’ return to Minnesota in the Brett Favre era.

However, this is different. It’s apples and oranges, cats and dogs, Toyota’s and Lexus’. Well, you get the picture.

Unlike the Hue Jackson led Raiders, the Redskins have not forfeited their future for a small window of opportunity. The Redskins gave up bits of their future to create a garage door sized opportunity for their franchise. Mike Shannahan and Co. may already be better off right now because of Robert Griffin but they have also put themselves in an extraordinary position for the next decade.

The NFL is a quarterback driven league. There is no denying it. Make whatever you want of the new rules but the fact of the matter is that the quarterback is king. Without a quarterback, you have about as much as chance of winning the Super Bowl as you do the lottery. It’s not overpaying if you’re solidifying the future of your franchise.

The league was a bit different back in the day but Mike Ditka should have known that a running back doesn’t lead a franchise to championships when he sold the farm, his house and the shirt off his back for Ricky Williams. Wide Receivers, they aren’t much different. They’re a dime a dozen.

Great quarterbacks, on the other hand, aren’t easy to get like an over the counter drug.

I’m not here to dissect RGIII’s tools but the Redskins are getting a guy with all the physical weapons to go along with an outstanding pedigree. His mother and father, both lawyers, have no doubt passed their intellect and work ethic onto their son. You see it in the way Griffin speaks and carries himself. This isn’t Ryan Leaf or Jamarcus Russell version 2.0, at least, no chance for the same kind of bust.

In a division as tough as the NFC East, the Redskins need a quarterback better than Rex Grossman and Jon Beck. They need a franchise quarterback to compete with Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Tony Romo. They couldn’t sit and wait for a player like Ryan Tannehill to develop for the next few years, hoping that one day he turns into a star when they had the opportunity to make the trade that they made yesterday. With quarterbacks, you have to go with as close as you can get to the sure thing.

Robert Griffin III just happens to be as close as it gets for the Washington Redskins.

I wouldn’t call giving up three 1st rounders and a 2nd round pick gutsy. I call it necessary.

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Saints Bounty Scandal Overblown

Let the vilification begin. The Saints are on their way from being seen as, well, saints to scoundrels. The team that boosted the morale of the city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina aren’t so angelic after all. The halo hovering over Sean Payton are now devil horns grotesquely protruding from his head.

The severe punishment the Saints will undoubtedly receive is justified. However, the accompanying public slander is not.

Don’t get me wrong, the bounty system is despicable and I’m not talking about those cute little characters from the animated movie. In a game where violence is already front and center, adding a monetary incentive to hurt opposing human beings is downright heartless.

I am all for Roger Goodell’s stance on eliminating head shots from the game of football. The NFL may be a little sissier in this era but for the long-term health and safety of the players who don’t understand enough about the issue to help themselves, the increased sissiness is well worth it.

The New Orleans Saints have to be penalized severely for this bounty scandal. The NFL has to do it to send a message around the league as it has done with head shot artists like James Harrison. If it takes a couple of draft picks a million bucks that is fine by me.

What I won’t stand for though is the defamation of the Saints. Similarly to the UCLA incident earlier this week, the Saints are going to be seen in a light that they don’t deserve. It isn’t right that UCLA basketball players were doing ecstasy at raves or that star players were receiving excessive preferential treatment. The problem with the Sports Illustrated story was that it made out UCLA to be the only team in the country to have those issues.

That shouldn’t happen for the New Orleans Saints either.

The sad fact of the matter is that the bounty program is an old practice in the NFL. Gregg Williams didn’t invent it in 2009. Heck, the Washington Post reported that the Washington Redskins had a bounty program under Gregg Williams as well. The famous bounty bowl games in 1989 where Buddy Ryan had bounties placed on quarterback Tory Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas are the most famous instances of this practice.

It’s an age-old system that certainly still takes place across the NFL. The Saints just happened to be the team that got caught.

Brett Favre’s comments on the subject speak volumes considering he was one of the biggest targets of the Saints bounty scandal. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered up $10,000 to knock him out of the NFC Championship game in 2009. Favre took some brutal shots that very much bordered on the illegal variety that game. Nevertheless, Favre was not upset, noting that that bounties are simply a part of the game. The ageless wonder stated that “said or unsaid, guys do it anyway.” “I’m not pissed. It’s football.”

Like steroids, because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right but vilifying the Saints alone isn’t warranted. I’m no NFL insider but this is surely a practice that is understood by players around the league as not being uncommon and possibly the norm. Listen to what Brett Favre is saying. He wasn’t the least bit surprised.

Everyone seems to be placing this scandal on a different level than Spygate. The title of John Clayton’s article on ESPN is “Saints bounty story worse than Spygate.” I don’t see it that way. To the best of my knowledge, the filming of opposing team’s walkthroughs is not one of those unsaid things that teams around the league do. I’m thinking Brett Favre would be more than a little bit pissed if he had been told that the Saints had been videotaping his team’s signals.

Who knows, Spygate might have been the reason behind a Super Bowl victory or two for the New England Patriots. Other Super Bowl champion teams aren’t doing that kind of thing. If we are strictly talking about integrity of the game, this bounty scandal can in no way be worse than Spygate.

A tarnished legacy for doing what other teams are doing and have been doing for years isn’t fair. Do we really know that the Minnesota Vikings didn’t have a bounty program as well in 2009? Sure, it’s naive to believe no one other than the New England Patriots have at least attempted to cheat the game using comparable methods but nothing has come out since 2008. The Washington Redskins have already been outed for their bounty program of the past. How much more is out there?

Hopefully Roger Goodell sends a message loud enough so that these bounty programs can finally be put to a halt. Player safety is the number one priority. Give the Saints the chair so to speak.

Just don’t let it ruin the their reputation.

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It’s Peyton’s Choice

Peyton Manning is a man. He can make his own decisions and no one else should be telling him otherwise. As much everyone thinks they know what is best for Peyton Manning, they don’t.

Manning is coming off reportedly 4 separate neck surgeries in the past 2 years according to Don Banks of SI.com. According to his birth certificate, Peyton will be 36 by the time the 2012 NFL season rolls around. He has played 13 seasons in the NFL according to his stats page on NFL.com.

A lot of people talk about legacy. Brett Favre apparently had his tarnished.

Apparently, Peyton Manning could end up doing the same thing.

Nonsense.

Peyton Manning can do what he wants.

The tarnishing of the infamous legacy is one of the most absurd concepts in professional sports. People illogically believe that it is in duty to protect an athlete’s so-called legacy. There is this idea that one should stop playing before the inevitable decline of father time or injuries take their toll on that person, making them unable to perform close to the level that fans are used to. Rumour has it that continuing to play past this point of substantial decline or even just the possibility of playing past that point is grounds for tarnishing of the legacy.

For some reason, it is engrained in sports culture that what you do late in your career can take away from the things that happened in the prime of your career. The thing is, this George Costanza idea of going out on a high note really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Last time I checked, you can’t erase what’s written in the history books. That stuff is down in permanent marker, you know, the TO kind of sharpie. But more importantly, the decision of whether or not to keep playing really shouldn’t come down to legacy at all.

Brett Favre still wanted to play. Peyton Manning wants to as well.

Who are we to try and tell these guys what to do? This isn’t our life. We aren’t their mothers.

They should be able to play as long as they want. If there is someone out there that is willing to pay them money to play the game that they love, then by all means they can choose to carry on with their careers. If playing is what the heart desires, the barrier stopping that from happening should be a Donovan McNabb situation. McNabb isn’t close to the level of Manning or Favre, but there came a time this past year when no was willing to pay McNabb to play football. Hey buddy, now it’s time to retire.

As weird as it was for fans to see Johnny Unitas in a Chargers uniform or Warren Moon in a Chiefs uniform, the far from fairy-tale endings to their careers have done next to nothing to skew the way they have been remembered.

Of course, not that it matters anyways.

Michael Jordan said that he wanted to go out on his own terms. He did that when he tried his hand at professional baseball. He did that when he played 2 seasons for the Washington Wizards. Michael Jordan did what he wanted to and has probably left the game happier because of it.

Regret is one of the worst feelings in life. I’m young. At 20 years old, I almost certainly don’t understand what real regret is. Nevertheless, it can’t be easy for a professional athlete to live the next 50 years of his life and know that he had more to give to the game. To walk away from the only identity and livelihood you have ever known is undoubtedly a scary thing. It’s scarier to think about when you know that there’s more left in the tank.

Brett Favre became one of the most repulsive athletes for his multiple pseudo-retirements. However, when you reflect back to his magical season at the age of 40 in Minnesota, you can’t help but think it was all worth it. Again, what I think doesn’t really matter. It’s what Brett thinks. I bet he would be the first to tell you that having one of the most improbable, unpredictable and captivating seasons in sports history made it all worth it.

If he had listened to what everyone was saying, we would never have seen what Brett Favre had in store for us that season.

Peyton Manning is barely a year removed from being on top of the NFL mountain. If he wishes to return to the NFL, most likely not in a Colts uniform, then he should do so. If not, he can walk away from the game as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

He has to do it on his terms though.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Tim Tebow a Real Starting Quarterback?

Tim Tebow must start the season as the Denver Broncos starting quarterback. I don’t think there are many people who could disagree with that. Whether he won or lost against the Steelers today, Tebow earned his spot as the team’s rightful starting quarterback.

The bottom line still isn’t wins. It’s how Tebow gets those wins. Today, Tim Tebow’s starring role against the Steelers was not accompanied by an Oscar worthy performance from luck (god?) for best supporting actor. Tebow time wasn’t reserved specifically for the 4th quarter as the Broncos’s won this game in a manner that John Elway could be proud of who seemed genuinely happy today. I know, right?

Tim Tebow showed the organization they need to stick with him. Even the fiercest critics, such as myself, of Tebow’s stumbling and bumbling inspector Clouseau-like (see my tweet) style of play have to concede this one to the real chosen1. It would be crazy of Denver, at this point, not to publicly show a great deal of confidence with regards to Tim Tebow’s status as the starting quarterback going into next season.

He has clearly improved virtually all facets of his game. That is something no one can ignore.

However, is it enough?

In spite of everything we witnessed against the Steelers, one strong week following a number of poor weeks isn’t going to completely change my mind. Yeah, what a shocker.

The supporters continue to support while the critics continue to criticize.

Tebow still misses open receivers. Late in the 4th quarter he had a chance to put his team into game winning field goal range but on 3rd down with just over a minute remaining he neatly stepped up in the pocket only to badly miss the open receiver running free across the middle of the field. It wasn’t the lone time in the game he missed a receiver by a fair margin. He may have thrown for over 300 yards but it was done on only 10 of 21 passing, with just 1 of those passes being dropped.

Tebow still stands in the pocket for much too long. He hasn’t learned how make his progressions and read a defence with ease. If his primary receiver isn’t there, Tebow must scramble. Can he learn to read defences? Does he have to learn how to read defences?

The only people who flip-flop more than Mitt Romney does may be the football analysts commenting on this Tebow conundrum. Nevertheless, his inability to show he can consistently play as well as he has against the Steelers and Raiders leaves me no choice but to carry on with my scepticism.

Consistency is a must in the NFL. Roller-coasters are fun, but after a while you start to get sick of them. America will never get sick of talking about Tebow. The Broncos, on the other hand, will put up with his inconsistency for only so long.

Tebow deserves the opportunity to succeed in the NFL next year. He should be the unquestionable starter. His performance against the Patriots shouldn’t make any difference to where he stands next season. While he ought to be number 1 on the depth chart in 2012, the Broncos can’t put all their eggs in their holy basket.

To place their full faith in an inconsistent, inaccurate quarterback constantly exposed to injury, despite his thick 245 pound frame, after a clutch playoff performance would also be crazy. Focusing their complete energy in surrounding Tebow with the best personnel for an option offence could blow up in their face if Tebow fails or gets injured.

Tebow has given the Bronco’s a lot more to think about. And to think, a Raiders win last weekend might have put the final nail in Tebow’s starting quarterback coffin. Now, it’s full steam ahead for the Tebow train.

I’m just not jumping aboard. Not yet.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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