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Violence, not replacement refs, will kill the NFL

September 25, 2012|By Paul Whitefield
  • Replacement officials make different calls on the final play of the Green Bay-Seattle game Monday night.
Replacement officials make different calls on the final play of the Green… (John Lok / Seattle Times…)

Oh, the horror: The Green Bay Packers were robbed by the replacement refs!

That’s been the outcry from fans and sportswriters from the minute the officials awarded the Seattle Seahawks a touchdown Monday night on a disputed last-second play.

It’s a story line that’s been building since the NFL locked out its regular referees, hiring replacements from various places.  And now sportswriters have their proof of just how wrong the league has been -- as if the regular refs never blew a call.

But you know what? Get over it, America.  You want to talk about what’s killing football?  Well, it ain’t the replacement refs.

All the Packers lost was a football game. Go to Houston, where Texans quarterback Matt Schaub lost part of his ear from an (illegal) hit during the game with the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

And to Oakland, where Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey appeared at first to have been even more seriously injured Sunday.  He lay motionless on the field for about 10 minutes after a (legal) hit by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Mundy. Heyward-Bed was knocked cold, suffering a concussion and a neck injury, but fortunately he’s now out of the hospital.

So yeah, cry me a river, Green Bay -- as if you’re the first team to ever taste defeat from a bad call. At least your players all have intact ears today.

(Besides, wasn’t instant replay supposed to put an end to all of these controversies? The Seattle touchdown was called on the field, then reviewed and upheld by an official watching the replay.  What more do you want?  Shall we hold a jury trial?  Do we need an appeals court?  Shall we make NFL games last two or three days while we parse every play and call?  Come to think of it, just think how many more beer and Viagra ads the networks could air!)

In a league drowning in violence, with its players being chewed up in a frightening meat grinder that leaves most permanently injured, disabled or worse (see Dave Duerson), all the fans and pundits and sportswriters can talk about is one bad call and the league’s foolishness in not settling contract talks with the regular referees.

Sure, football is America’s preeminent sport. The professional teams are worth billions; college teams bring in millions for their universities. In Texas, a high school spent $60 million on its football stadium.

But boxing was once popular in America too. The heavyweight champion of the world was as famous as kings and presidents.

You think what happened to boxing can’t happen to football?  Think again.

Yes, football is a contact sport. But it's become a violent sport. Perhaps too violent to even qualify as a sport. And that's what should concern NFL owners, fans and sportswriters.

Forget about blown calls; we’ll always have those.

What we should be talking about is the future of a sport that blows up its players.

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