I was sitting in my living room, enveloped in the large forest green cushions of my couch, when Antonio Freeman made “The Catch.”
It was Nov. 6, 2000. I was only 9 years old – a wee little fourth-grader – yet I remember that catch as if I were a wide receiver, feeling the ball bounce on me, reaching out for it and streaking toward the end zone, glancing at the defensive back who already started celebrating the turn of possession.
Just over a year later, sitting in that same living room, I watched a blizzard. It was the 2001 AFC divisional playoff game – what eventually would be known as the “Tuck Rule Game.” Between the snowflakes, the game was barely discernible, but then Charles Woodson sacked Tom Brady, causing the quarterback to fumble the ball. The gravity of what I just witnessed didn’t set in until years later.
I’ve watched football every Sunday, Monday and (now) Thursday since my memory could function. So I didn’t think anything of it when I watched the Seahawks-Packers game Monday night. Rather, I was ready to enjoy what was bound to be a fun game.
Three and a half hours later, an insane Week 3 came to a close with one of the most controversial calls the league has probably ever faced.
As Russell Wilson heaved a Hail Mary toward the end zone, Packers safety M.D. Jennings and Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate fought for the ball. Two referees came in – one called it an interception, the other a touchdown. While announcers, players and fans alike made conjectures at the call – especially after a video replay seemed to confirm it was an interception – the refs came back to the field and announced a touchdown.
Due to a continued strike by the unionized NFL referees, replacement refs have caused frustration throughout the league in the first three weeks – mainly because they simply aren’t experienced enough to officiate at the professional level.
But while frustration and impatience have taken the league by storm – between players, coaches and fans – the 14-12 Monday night decision was one of the first times the replacement refs had ever decided a game.
First off, everyone needs to remember it was only Week 3 and that it was only a football game. If it were a playoff game, or a game that had an extreme impact on the playoff race, over-the-top outrage would be warranted. But it wasn’t. It was only Week 3. And need I remind Packer fans that in 2010, Green Bay finished the regular season 10-6 en route to a Super Bowl Title. A 1-2 start is not something to freak out about – yet – especially given the tough schedule with which Green Bay started the season.
Instead of taking to the Internet and calling for both Roger Goodell’s head and the replacement refs’ lives – excuse the drama – fans have the power to evoke change in a largely more profound way.
Football fans can only hope the Monday night touch-ception will ignite the owners to reach a swift deal with the original league officials. But as the NFL continues to remain a healthy business venture week in and week out, there is no real pressure for the owners to react promptly to the officials’ demands, even after such a fiasco.
That’s where the fans come in.
As difficult as it may be, the best and most efficient way to make your frustration heard is to simply not watch football. Don’t do it.
The NFL’s ratings haven’t slipped at all, even with the replacement refs. If the NFL starts to lose money, only then will it feel immediate pressure to make a change.
Instead of holing up in front of your TV all day Sunday, unsubscribe from the NFL Network, go outside and play a little football of your own. Go for a walk. Grill out. Go check out all the classic fall activities you can – go to the apple orchard, pick some pumpkins, go get lost in that corn maze. Or if you must stay inside, watch a movie – a football one even (if you really need that fix).
This can even be taken one step further. Stop going to games. As part of a season-ticket holding family, this is an extremely difficult claim to make. But if the strike continues and calls similar to Monday night continue to take place, refusing to go to games or buy tickets may just be the way to go, to show owners and the NFL that fans aren’t happy.
Now boycotting games is certainly a drastic suggestion, which also affects the players – the very same players who are just as upset about the call and the officiating situation.
When Green Bay’s offensive lineman T.J. Lang sent out the most expensive tweet of his life, venting his frustration at the situation, he soon followed it up with a tweet asserting he didn’t care about getting fined and, if anything, the NFL should use that money to pay the “real” officials. Some Packers even suggested another players strike if the officiating situation continues.
Either way, once the owner’s start to feel the sting of losing a few bucks or a million, the impact of the fans’ and players’ outrage will finally be felt.