Sutton Says . . . Replacement Refs Have Lost Control

Charles E. Sutton | , WI Staff Writer | 9/26/2012, 2:37 p.m.

NFL games have become 60-minute melees and the rules have been tossed out of the window. We're witnessing absolute lawlessness. It hasn't quite reached the level of the Hatfields vs. McCoys, but we're getting dangerously close.

Quite simply, the league's replacement referees have lost control. The players have little to no respect for the officials and they certainly don't fear them. Every other series of downs looks like a local tough man competition. A couple of Monday Night games ago, the refs were at risk when they found themselves in the middle of a brawl between Denver and Atlanta.

Who would have ever thought that NFL fans would be begging for regular officials to return? It's like a guy's first date after breaking up with his girlfriend. About 30 minutes into it, he realizes that his ex-girlfriend wasn't that bad - it just feels strange.

The contract dispute between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association shouldn't drag into October or November, and certainly not into December. It must to be settled now. NFL owners are showing total disregard for their fans and for their product by allowing amateurs to officiate professional games. If anyone thinks this won't have a negative impact on the teams' finances, just give it another month or so, when fans lose confidence and choose to stop watching.

Fans have no interest in the details of the dispute. But they know that one year after owners beat the players in a lockout, the billionaires are once again seeking more money.

The NFL can't ensure the quality of these officials. A side judge who openly admitted his allegiance to the New Orleans Saints almost officiated a Saints' game. On the morning of the game, ESPN contacted the NFL about the ref's partisanship support and the official was yanked hours before kickoff. A field judge who called the Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks game was paid by the Seahawks over the past three years for officiating the team's practices. One player even said that a referee encouraged him to play harder because the player himself was on the ref's fantasy football team.

It's obvious that the refs are intimidated and influenced by players. The national spotlight is far too daunting, and quite frankly, they don't know the rules. None of them should be calling an NFL game, much less calling one collectively.

It's bad enough that the league has found itself in this situation. The two sides did meet on Sept. 23, however, no substantive issues were resolved. There are no further scheduled negotiation talks at this time.

The NFL represents America's most popular sport. However, when you stop to consider how the league has disrespected its fans and the game over the years, one has to wonder whether it's deserved. Currently, this standoff remains unresolved. And we've neither seen nor heard anything that would suggest a quick resolution.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must resolve this matter immediately. If not, perhaps we should consider a replacement commissioner. Now that might be a replacement that the fans could all appreciate.