Sunday's in the Fall, is there anything greater?
Three things are sure on Sundays; the Broncos are on the TV, friends gather to take part in the fun and beer flows like water while greasy and delicious foods are plentiful.
And if you're doing it right, you're yelling like a crazed loon at the television; giving advice to coaches, telling Jim Nantz he should be calling a golf tournament somewhere and standing up to Mile High Salute touchdowns.
But the most screaming is usually reserved for a special group of individuals—the referees.
We hate the refs with a passion, think they're almost always wrong—unless their ignorance benefits the orange and blue like Ed Hochuli in 2008—and we laugh at them when they stutter on the microphone.
Remember this classic call of “Personal foul on number 93 of the defense, after he tackled the quarterback he's giving him the business down there,”? Hilarious.
Also funny is watching a ref get run over by a beastly player, just don't let him get in the way of a Broncos pass play or we'll rip his head off in the Mile High parking lot.
In the end, we understand the refs hold a vital role within the game—they must sift through the controlled chaos of the brutal game of football and determine which players are not playing within the extremely complicated and convoluted rules, all within an incredibly small amount of time.
The officials make the game, well, official, acting as impartial and unbiased parties to ensure the rules are obeyed.
They're not perfect or infallible—the league regularly admits their officials missed something—but they are damn good.
The NFL referees are arguably the best in all of American professional sports, breaking down the nuances of the most elaborate game we play.
While the NBA playoffs are ongoing, all the talk focuses on conspiracy theories and how poorly the games are being officiated. In the MLB, perfect games are nullified by idiotic umpriring and clear homeruns are miscalled, why they have recently adapted a replay system similar to the NFL's. The NHL's refs are top-notch as well, but is it an American game?
On the international stage, refereeing is widely known as fraudulent and fixed in some sports; look at how the US Men's National Soccer team was screwed by the ref in the last World Cup or how the Americans' Olympic Basketball team was robbed of a Gold medal in the 1972 Russian games.
We don't look back on NFL games and say, “Man, that blown call cost the team that game,” we simply acknowledge the best team won on that given day.
For that reason, we should be thankful for the amazing job the referees do, week-in, week-out.
Why all the love for the refs?
It was announced today that the NFL is working on hiring and training replacement referees after talks to extend the league and NFL Referees Association's collective bargaining agreement have fallen apart.
The league is looking to replace their remarkable referees not with BCS conference college refs—since that's their usual talent pool and the two groups are intermingled—but with lower conference officials and even ones from the arena leagues.
What could result is a circus on Sundays this coming fall, as the preseason begins in little more than two months.
As a beat writer covering the CSU Rams for the last three years, I've witnessed and scrutinized the refereeing of the Mountain West Conference, the biggest non-BCS conference in college football, and the news isn't good NFL fans. At worst, they're horrific, missing blatant fouls and leaving fans to wonder what game they're watching. At best, they're passable, but never great.
And arena league refs? Really? It's similar to a minor league for the NFL except players rarely are “called up” to play in the NFL and for refs, it's even more seldom.
Simply, the NFL game is different than the college or arena league games due to the higher speed of the players and because there are more rules, specifically ones directed toward player safety.
Really, almost every rule in the NFL is directed towards keeping players safe—why you can't block someone in the back or high-low “chop” block them—though their more specified ones that have been implemented recently aren't called in the lower leagues.
Sure, the other refs can watch film, but getting only four preseason games to work out the kinks and get up to speed won't be enough.
It'll almost certainly result in poorly called games and could even ruin the result of those prized few NFL contests we look forward to each and every year.