Is this where I say "first"?
Anyways, I have a few thoughts regarding last night's debacle at the end of the Seahawks- Packers MNF game. I'll warn you right now, if you are a Packer fan, you may not like some of the things I have to say. I'm not trying to start a flame war here, and I'm certainly not baiting any trolls. There are a few decent Packer fans who frequent this site and it's comments sections, and I certainly have no intention of either running you off or daring you into a fight.
To prove that, I will start with this: that game was blown, plain and simple. Yes, that's a simple fact that even the most diehard Packer-hating Viking fan can see. Hell, even Pete Carrol knew it (but I mean, what did you expect him to say?). There was no 'simultaneous catch'... Jennings had the ball first and best, that was an INT. Plain and simple. The fact that the referees were about to actually end the game early... you know, without that whole 'extra point' thing that has to actually happen after each and every touchdown regardless of what the game clock says... just made the chaos even more chaotic, and it showed that these referees really just don't know what they are doing.
Now then. Some of us sports fans, regardless of your colors, league, what-have-you, believe in certain 'mystical' elements of the game: curses, karma, etc. I'm not a firm believer per se in that stuff, but there sometimes really does seem to almost have a feel of "the football gods are acting". And I hate... OK, I really don't, but... to say it, but this was karma upon the Packers.
Why? Because I am a Viking fan? Nope. Because I hate the Packers? Nope. Because it's nice to see someone other than our team get screwed by the refs? Also nope.
Because of the 2010 Super Bowl... that's why. See, let's take a trip down memory lane. That season in our first meeting with the Pack, with Brett Favre in full Favregeddon mode, two things happen that no Viking fan will ever forget: the Packer TD that wasn't (because Chilly's use of challenges was, well... bad), and the Viking TD that was. But wasn't. You know, when Visanthe Shianco caught the pass, kept control, landed... and was somehow... not scoring a TD. While the major sports networks didn't treat it with quite the hubbub that this last incident is receiving, plenty of commentators- including officiating guru Mike Periera- pointed out that it was a horribly miffed call.
But no matter what, no matter that we were ref'd out of a TD and the Packers were ref'd into one, and no matter that either one of those would have changed the game's outcome (not to mention both of them combined), the Packers got the W. And then entered the playoffs as a Wild Card... exactly one game in. If they had lost that game, then I believe it was the Bucs who were going (it might have been the Giants, I know it was one of those two). All in all, the Packers, thanks to two major officiating mistakes, got into the playoffs only to get to the Super Bowl.
Now again to be fair to the decent Packer fans that are here, you guys didn't cheat. No, that was the Saints*. And that game isn't why you won the Super Bowl... but it is why you got into the playoffs.
And karma came calling last night. You were that metaphorical sacrificial lamb that the football gods deemed would fall to show the world that yes, replacement refs could affect the outcome of games. I can understand your agony... if it were us, I'd feel it to. As an aside, all Viking fans know your pain. Just sayin'.
So I don't know how many of you subscribe to the mystical elements of football... but if you do, even just a little bit, realize that that call was karma, it was fate, it was the pound of flesh that was the price of a playoff run to the Super Bowl that shouldn't have happened. But look at the bright side... you're probably still going to the playoffs this year. (Probably.) Really, the trade off should be one that is embraced.
Now then. How 'bout these refs, huh? Let's face it, they botched that game last night right from the start all the way to that finish that almost didn't actually finish. It was atrocious. It was horrible. And as much as we Viking fans can celebrate the Packers being 1-2 and us being 2-1 for it, let's face it: that can happen to anyone, us included. Remember the facemask-that-wasn't-but-really-was last season against the Lions? Uh... we face them next week. And with these referees. Oh boy.
We can take some satisfaction, some sense of justice that finally, finally, it was the Packers and not the Vikings jobbed out of a game. But really that satisfaction needs to be mingled with concern. The refs have finally done it- they affected the outcome of a game. Who's next? So long as these guys are on the field, it really can be us next time. (Of course, even with the regular refs it's a legitimate concern for the Viking fanbase that we're going to get ref'd out of a W.)
And with that said........ I say......
Stay strong, NFL. Don't give in now.
What what what WHAT? you say as your monocle falls from your face? (I always have a mental image of you all wearing monocles when you read my stories. Probably not accurate.) Why in the blue hell would I not be calling for Goodell and the owners to recognize the grave error and sin that occurred, get these hacks off the field, and give in?
Because this is what the NFL is trying to avoid. You read that right. The only difference is that they're trying to avoid this with the regular guys. Is money the main factor? Yeah, it is. But the NFLRA is still not agreeing to a bench of officials to replace screw ups, and they're still not agreeing to some being full-time as a transition to an eventual full-time only crew of refs. And right now, if a deal gets cut, it's going to be in the NFLRA's favor because of what just happened. That means, more than likely, no bench of guys to replace under-performers, no moves towards a better-trained, full time referee group. And I... don't... want... that. For too long have referees been judge, jury and executioner on the field, and let's face it, we Viking fans recognize that this is not the first time a team has lost a game thanks to the officials on the field. It may be one of the most dramatic, but it's not the first. Announcers comment when Joe Webb gets blatantly face-masked and loses his last shot for a game-winning TD, but they don't go all apoplectic on it like they did with this one. Well, again, we're well aware that this wasn't as special as it seems- it just looks like it (and yes, mostly because it was the Packers that lost).
So, while our feelings of karmatic justice are rightfully mingled with concern... just remember that bringing back the regular guys doesn't do much for us overall. The NFL needs to get it's demands for a bench of officials, and a move towards full-time refs, met. If anything, by staying put despite this recent debacle, the NFL may show the NFLRA that it's not screwing around, and that it's willing to take a hit to get these demands met. I could care less about the money to be honest- pay 'em or not, I don't care. I want what just happened to never, ever happen again. And inside these negotiations lies the first steps towards that.