By playing hardball with the officials’ union, by forcing the fraud of replacement refs upon the game for three painful weeks, the league managed to make fans, players and coaches sympathetic to the men in stripes.
With the deal effectively done and the real zebras returning for tonight’s game between the Ravens and Browns, we can get back to the business of blaming the officials, and not the league, for all of our troubles.
“I think people understand how good they are at their profession, their craft, the things that they see at such a speed of the game that we play at, there’s very few things they miss, so it’ll be good to get them back,” Tom Zbikowski said. “Now that they’re back it’ll be business as usual, I guess.”
Unlike the Packers (and a few other teams that less obviously but nonetheless mightily suffered at the hands of the replacements), the Colts didn’t really have much of a beef with the fill-ins – OK, they could spot the ball a little more quickly, and they could know that a penalty stops the clock, and maybe understand the pass interference rule – but no outcomes were falsely determined.
It was a confusing situation. A ref would blow a call but you couldn’t really be mad at him because he (or she) was some poor Division III refugee trying to pick up some coin. You could blame the league, but that’s like blaming rain. It’s going to ruin your day whether you like it or not.
“They did the best they could,” said Zbikowski. “There’s nothing they can be faulted for. It’s a tough situation. Feel for them a little bit, did a good enough job, may have cost some games, may have not.
“You never know how regular officials would’ve called it.”
That last statement rings.
The return of the regular officials does not guarantee every call will be correct, every conference will be brief, every game controlled.
But it does restore credibility because the undeserving scapegoats have been replaced by those who wear the horns and chin hair proudly.
“If you focus on the refs too much,” said Antoine Bethea, “then you aren’t giving your 100 percent.”
By the time the Colts step back on the field next Sunday against Green Bay, this whole issue will have faded into the landscape. As Zbikowski said, the league will be back to business as usual.
Even so, the players will be glad to see the regular refs back, right?
As always, Robert Mathis summed it up nicely:
“As long as the calls go our way.”