What Was Your Favorite Replacement Referee Moment?


Now that it’s over, hopefully we can all look back with a laugh at the failed experiment that was the replacement refs of the 2012 NFL season (except for Green Bay fans, of course).  These first few weeks have been nothing if not amusing, and have left many of us shaking our heads in complete disbelief at the insane call, or lack thereof, we had just witnessed.

Sep 23, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Sideline judge Shannon Eastin (15), head linesman Lynn Lawhon (63) and referee Donovan Briggans (12) gather during the game between the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Jacksonville defeats Indianapolis 22-17. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

I have to be honest, if not for the extreme risk of injury these refs subjected players to, I would have been laughing the entire time.  You see, I am a Cowboy’s fan and I have seen the same level of egregious calls by the regular officials my entire life.

My grandfather, until the day he died, would rant about a field goal the Cowboys had kicked right between the uprights, but didn’t get the 3 points because the officials claimed it was too high.  Too high?!? If there was ever justification for Tom Landry to manhandle a ref Bill Belichick style, that would have been it.  Of course, had that happened, we would have spent all week talking about how Bill Belichick pulled a Tom Landry.

I read a statistic in the last couple of years that stated in every game the Cowboys played, they were penalized more than any other team their opponent played that season. That could make sense, right?  It would simply have to mean that the Cowboys are one of the most heavily penalized and least disciplined teams in the league.  That doesn’t seem so ridiculous that it screams “conspiracy”, does it?  The next statistic in the report was a little more concerning.

In every game the Cowboys played, their OPPONENTS were penalized less than in any other game THEY played all season.  Now that cannot be a coincidence.  We are supposed to believe that each team we face commits less holding, interference, off sides, false starts, late hits, illegal contact, illegal shifts, face masks, and helmet to helmets (I could go on and on), against the Cowboys than any other team they play all year?  How is that possible for all 13 teams we play in a regular season?

The first statistic alone is suspicious, but when you add the second?  The game is afoot, my dear readers.  I guess the point I am making is that I was excited to see the replacements this year, and optimistic about their capabilities.  But then the insanity began.

Aug 30, 2012; Detroit, MN, USA; NFL referee Henry Zaborniak gestures in the fourth quarter in a preseason game between the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire

I’m not talking about a few blown calls or even the moments of profound confusion (when the refs appeared to be holding up the game so they could google “NFL rules” on their handhelds).  Those are the times I found myself laughing uncontrollably, watching other teams and their fan’s reactions to what I have grown accustom to the last 25 years of my life.  I guess the way I saw it was, as long as they are calling it bad both ways, it’s still a fair game.  So I laughed my way through the first week of the regular season (the Cowboys win over the Giants didn’t hurt).

The problem quit being funny to me when things started to get out of control.  Of course by “things”, I mean the players.  It started to become much more obvious by the second week that these replacement officials were in way over their heads.  Little skirmishes that should have been stopped within seconds were allowed to turn into all out brawls involving more than half the players on the field.  Helmet to helmet shots were commonly permitted; and transgressions that should have easily pulled unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike flags more often than not went unpunished.  These replacements had let the players get away with too much and had lost their respect in doing so.  No matter how much they might have tried to reign them in at that point, it was too late, the damage had been done.

You see, it is infinitely more difficult to gain respect and authority back after you have lost it than to earn it in the first place. Thankfully, the NFL finally recognized the situation and brought the regular officials back before the season was lost, or anyone was seriously hurt as a result.

So, now that it’s over, let’s take the opportunity to laugh at the situation by posting your funniest, favorite, or even most infuriating (if it’s still a little too soon) memory of this ill-advised NFL venture.  After all, if we can’t laugh, we can’t heal.

Mine would have to be the referee’s hat thrown under Ogletree’s feet.  Had he gotten hurt, or had it cost us the game, I would be livid.  Seeing as neither was the case, it will always stay with me, always stick in my mind as one of the most bizarre occurrences I have ever witnessed in professional sports.  So when my son (who is now almost two months old) has a son of his own, he can go around telling people how his grandfather used to always rant about the time an NFL referee threw his hat under a receiver’s feet, seemingly on purpose, to stop the Dallas Cowboys from scoring a touchdown.