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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Replacement Referees: The Wild Card for 49ers, Packers, and NFL

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2012 at 10:55 AM

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With the 49ers-Packers game looming this NFL opening weekend, locals have analyzed every last element of the pending clash. This ritual has been repeated in every last sporting city and undertaken by every last professional or amateur observer with a keyboard and an opinion.

One factor being given short shift, however, is the refereeing. The National Football League has locked out its officials, and has turned over the striped shirts to men (and a woman) most recently seen reffing low-level college games, six-man football contests, or even the hard-hitting action of the Lingerie Football League.

Somewhat astoundingly, the products of the multi-billion dollar business that is the NFL are being overseen by officials accustomed to dodging errant garter belts or the slow, undersized personnel of colleges you've never heard of. Millions of dollars will be wagered on contests overseen by these questionable arbiters. It's bewildering for those who've invested even a moment's thought in the matter.

More bewildering still: After yesterday's regular season opener, the refs' bargaining position took a major hit.

Unlike much of the preseason, the scab refs working last night's Giants-Cowboys opener managed to avoid major gaffes and communicate to the audiences in sounds resembling speech.

If the referees were hoping the public would get behind them in their arcane pension/compensation/God knows what dispute based on some horrific call, it didn't happen. And that may have been wishful thinking all along.

"The NFL doesn't negotiate that way. They will not change their position if there's some terrible call," ESPN analyst and former Packers executive Andrew Brandt tells SF Weekly. "I think the NFL refs would be more influenced by the replacement refs doing well than the NFL would be influenced by the replacement refs doing poorly. If there becomes a drumbeat that, you know, these replacement refs aren't so bad, I would sense that would get the real refs more anxious about making their deal."

Brandt holds out hope that real refs may, in fact, be calling this weekend's games -- though he does tab himself "the eternal optimist."

Hey, it's only the integrity of the game at stake. No biggie.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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