Before unveiling my Thursday-night "Skunk of the Week," let's rip through an impromptu mailbag saying good-bye to the NFL's replacement officials. We already ran a slew of e-mails from my readers on Tuesday (without my responses); this edition will be more mailbaggish, only I'm limiting myself to shorter responses just so we can hit as many as possible.
On a personal note: I have been writing the "Sports Guy" column for ESPN/Grantland since April of 2001. Not counting something that happened with a Boston team, I can only remember four other events during those 11-plus years provoking a reader response like Monday's Packers-Seahawks game did: 9/11, The Decision, Tiger Woods's car accident, and Game 4 of the 2006 NBA Finals (because of the officiating). There's a reason ESPN's 90-minute SportsCenter that followed Monday Night Football did an astonishing 4.5 rating (the highest SportsCenter rating in 17 years, by the way), just like there's a reason people spent 36 straight hours tweeting like crazy, flooding various mainstream websites and sports blogs, calling sports radio shows and even sending me funny/thoughtful/anguished/enraged e-mails. The ongoing saga of America's Pastime 2.0 getting absolutely mangled, with no sign of an imminent resolution, left everyone flabbergasted.
As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers. These e-mails were written during the 48-hour span after that Packers-Seahawks game ended.
Q: Are fans completely powerless here? What if fans at all the games this week refuse to buy concessions? Or NFL merchandise? Would that hurt the owners at all, or would it hurt other people? Do the fans have any leverage at all?
—Chris, Alameda, CA
SG: Now that it's settled, wouldn't you say we used our leverage? We complained and bitched and moaned until the NFL finally sucked it up and did something. The biggest thing we had going in our favor was something Peter Berg once referred to on my podcast as the Doorman Rule. Berg always worried that NBC was going to cancel his Friday Night Lights show, but his biggest asset was the interactions that everyday people had with NBC's higher-ups. As Berg described it (I'm doing this from memory), there was a two-minute stretch from when then-NBC honcho Jeff Zucker left his fancy apartment, rode the elevator, walked out his apartment complex's door and climbed into his limo en route to work. During those two minutes, he might run into three or four people — someone in the elevator and/or the lobby, the doorman, maybe someone outside as he's waiting for the limo to pull up. And at least one of those people might make small talk with him and say, "Hey man, I love Friday Night Lights." For someone like Zucker, those comments would carry a ton of weight because it's really one of his only chances to cross paths with real people. So Berg was saying that, as long as you're a Doorman Show, you always have a chance no matter what your ratings are.
OK, now flip that around — let's say you're Goodell or one of the 32 owners. Imagine it's Tuesday. Do you want to run into anyone during that two-minute walk to the limo? Aren't you dreading the fuming guy in the elevator, or the doorman who's thinly smiling at you while hoping deep down that you get run over by a car? That's the biggest reason this lockout got settled — as soon as the commissioner and these owners were put in the position of dreading interactions with everyday people, this was over. So I'd argue that we DID have leverage, and we used it the old-fashioned way.
Q: Like the rest of America, I am trying to figure out what just happened to the Packers. I haven't felt this much confusion, anger, curiosity, frustration since
Monday Night RAW!! That's what the NFL has become. Goodell is Vince McMahon! All we needed was Jim Ross yelling 'Mr. Goodell, how could you, you son of a ---' as the TV cuts out to a syndicated episode of Mad About You.
SG: Lockout settlement aside, kudos to Roger Goodell for turning the NFL into the go-to league for all WWE jokes. And congratulations to David Stern for a great run — he held that WWE fort for nearly 20 years before Goodell just wouldn't be denied. Now we just need some enterprising Internet junkie to superimpose Goodell's head on Vince throughout this YouTube clip and the transition will be complete.
Q: Can we get Little League World Series style graphics about the scab refs? Think: hometown, favorite player, day job, what they want to be when they grown up, etc.
—Chris Cohen, New York
SG: Please, for the love of God, let's remember this idea for the next time we have replacement refs.
Q: When does the 24/7 style reality show following one beleaguered Replacement Ref Crew start? The trials, the tribulations, the tears! Tell me this wouldn't be scintillating TV!
—Peter H., Arlington
SG: And this one, too.
Q: Am I the only one hoping this referee lockout continues? I mean seriously, is this not the single most entertaining NFL season of all time so far? Don't get me wrong, I love football more than anything and I really do hate that the refs are causing a great game to become a joke. But how much fun is it to watch these guys in striped shirts do a job that they are 100% unqualified to do? Isn't this what we as an American society enjoy watching (re: "Boom goes the dynamite" guy)?. Watching the games just to see how the players, coaches, announcers, and fans react to all these calls is pure gold. And speaking of the fans, was there anything that made you feel more proud to be an American then hearing the Ravens fans loudly chant "Bullshit!" in unison on national TV? Come to think of it these referees are pulling us together as a nation. Go USA!
—Paul, Monroe TWP, NJ
SG: Now that it's over, I'm with Paul — that was a wildly entertaining three weeks even if the NFL's credibility went in the tank. I enjoyed reading the outraged columns, watching talking heads flip out, hearing sports radio hosts have a collective coronary, sifting through the relentless snark on Twitter, looking forward to Steve Young's indignant rants after every Monday Night Football game, seeing the creative memes and YouTube clips, making Roger Goodell jokes, even listening to Cris Collinsworth be simultaneously disgusted (by the officiating) and delighted (that the lawlessness has led to a more physical game that resembles what we loved back in the '70s and '80s). There was definitely a sense that we were all in this together — fans, players, writers, bloggers, coaches and talking heads all wanted the same thing, for once — and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the camaraderie.
At the same time, we were putting players in danger, compromising the playoff picture and blurring the winning/losing line to the point that the wrong team clearly won consecutive night games. (Note: You're not gonna believe this, but I thought the Pats got jobbed on calls that night, especially down the stretch.) To say "that's too big of a cost" would be an understatement. Fast-forward three months: What happens if it takes 11 wins to capture the NFC wild card and Seattle finishes 11-5 and Green Bay finishes 10-6? We're in the same situation we were in when a really good 1987 Giants team got screwed by their replacement losses and ended up missing the playoffs for reasons that had nothing to do with football. So if that DOESN'T happen, then ultimately, I think we'll remember Replacement 2012 as somewhere between "phenomenally memorable" and "strangely enjoyable."
Q: I run a weekly confidence pool with about 20 of my high school friends. After Monday night's disaster half the league is demanding their money back until the real refs return. Roger Goodell's NFL: Where Even Degenerate Gamblers Vowing To Boycott Happens
—Rich Searls, Chicago
SG: If you were really degenerate gamblers, you wouldn't be deterred by the fake refs. I'm just saying.
The Guy Who May or May Not Have Parlayed Seattle's Moneyline and the Under on Monday Night
Q: Let's put all the replacement refs in one house until the negotiations are resolved. "This is the true story
of ten Division II college football referees
forced to live in a house
work together in a job for which they are severely underqualified and have their lives taped
to find out what happens
when Roger Goodell stops caring about the quality of NFL games
and the referees start getting incompetent
The Real World."
—Matt, Woodbridge, VA
SG: "This week on Real World — Lance blows the biggest call of the Monday-night game, then brings two Seahawks fans back to the house and has a threesome with them in the hot tub!"
You just reminded me of something — isn't it weird how little we knew about these replacement referees even as they were having such an enormous impact on America's most popular sport? Here in L.A., the local NBC station led its 11 p.m. news with a story about Lance Easley, the ref who called Tate's Hail Mary catch a TD — apparently he's from California and works as a vice president of a bank in Santa Maria. You know what I learned during this piece? That Lance Easley tried to become a Division I college referee and didn't make the cut. Now he's directly impacting Monday Night Football games? How amazing is that? Was he living a lifelong dream? Did he think this would lead to something better? Was he bummed out the next morning? Did he feel like he made the right call and took unnecessary heat? What did his friends say to him? Will this end up being something of a scarlet letter for him, or something much cooler — a fun story for him to tell at a cocktail party in 15 years? At the very least, Bravo needs to green-light The Real Housewives of the Fake NFL Officials soon. I want to know more.
Q: So last night I decided to try and pick up chicks impersonating replacement ref Don King's speech pattern. Needless to say, they talked to me as if I was mentally challenged and I didn't bring anyone home. Upon further review, it wasn't a good call to try something like that but it was better than any call Mr. King had made Sunday.
—Justin B., Pleasanton
SG: Ladies and gentlemen, one last time, your 2012 NFL replacement referees! The best thing about replacement ref Don King was that he doubled as Replacement Don King, because when's the last time you've seen the real Don King or thought about him? Even better, could two people be less similar than Don King and Replacement Don King? I think they should host a week of PTI together.
Q: I know everyone writing in to you about the MNF ending is comparing it to the WWE, but really the 4th quarter of that game is the baseball scene from The Naked Gun. Frank Drebin is the totally overwhelmed replacement ref (First pitch right down the middle
—Dave, Wayne, PA
SG: Come on, watch that clip again. Frank Drebin had WAY MORE control over that Angels game than the replacement refs had on Monday.
Q: Is there any way that this whole NFL replacement ref ordeal will just end up as Nick Cage switching faces with all of the refs? It'd be an epic sequel to Face/Off
—Michael O'Brien, Columbia, MO
SG: You had me at the words "an epic sequel to Face/Off." I feel the same way about Face/Off 2 that I felt about Fast Five and I feel about Taken 2 when it opens next week: I'm just in. I don't need to know anything else. I don't need reviews, I don't need a trailer, I don't need to know who else is involved. Just tell me when and where. And apparently, I'm not alone — Fast Five made a boatload of money, and so will Taken 2. So why hasn't Face/Off 2 gone into production yet? What's the holdup? What are we waiting for?
Q: Have you ever seen NFL refs so intimidated from fans in your life as they were on Sunday night? After the "Bullshit!" chant with 2:20 left the ref never called anything against the Ravens. In 2:20 of game clock they blew the whistle early on a dropped fair catch, a offensive pass interference missed, a play called out of bounds with a knee down 3 yards in the field of play, and probably 3 holdings calls on the offensive line, and to top it off we dont even get a replay from the field goal cam to see if the ref blew the call. And they say fans can't effect the game, here is a direct case where they did.
—Joe Curtin, Waltham, MA
Q: Something I haven't run across in any media about the refs is THEIR state of mind. Have you seen the looks on these guys's faces when they're taking five minutes to discuss a call? They're anything but happy to be there. They're TERRIFIED! I was a lowly 16-inch softball league umpire for five years. Got 25 bucks a game, never had to run a player and was happy to have the job. But any ref (ump, line judge, arbiter, whatever) will tell you that the biggest compliment to your performance was that nobody even noticed you were there. These replacement refs are noticed by everyone, even more than the regular refs, and are doing the best they can under the worst possible circumstances. They may be overmatched with the speed and complexity of the pro game, but I'm pretty sure they're not "just happy to be there." As the ref standing under the right upright looked up at the final kick of the Pats-Ravens game and signaled a shaky game-winner, I texted my friend with this: "I would rather be in charge of a nuclear silo during the Cuban Missile Crisis
—Kevin G, Charleston, SC
SG: Lumped those two e-mails together because this was the best possible reason for the NFL to settle sooner than later. Sticking these increasingly petrified replacement referees in a hostile playoff setting would have (a) created an almost seismic home-field advantage, (b) led to an inevitable catastrophe, and (c) led to Roger Goodell waking up with a replacement ref's head in his bed.
Q: Were you aware that there is a replacement referee, Craig Ochoa, whose experience includes reffing in the Lingerie Football League? THE LINGERIE FOOTBALL LEAGUE!! There hasn't been a worse resume since pizza boy E got to manage Vince Chase and Anna Faris.
—Dave Snyder, Pittsburgh
SG: You left out the part in which he got fired! Who was the MVP of the 2012 Replacement Ref Fiasco? Was it Craig Ochoa, Fake Don King or Lance Easley?
Q: Instead of replacement refs, wouldn't it be more entertaining to just let the NFL players call their own penalties, just like pick-up hoops at the Y? Who wouldn't love to see Mark Sanchez calling off-sides on every play he was about to get sacked? Personally, I'd like to see Champ Bailey's reaction to someone calling P.I. on him. And to make it even more interesting
give each time, say, 5 vetoes per game where they can completely just disregard the call? The only thing we'd lose from the current state of the game would be the classic 6 second pauses between the name of the foul and what the result is with these current guys (I don't know about you, but i lose it every time they do this).
—Kyle Clifford, Evergreen Park, IL
SG: In pickup hoops, there's always one guy who calls a foul every time a drive doesn't go exactly how he wanted it to go. So assuming the NFL adopted this idea, which they wouldn't, but whatever, which star QB would be the one who kept driving everyone else crazy by calling cheap fouls to save his own butt? (Thinking.) Dammit, the answer is Tom Brady, isn't it? I can't believe I brought this up.
Q: I am a young teacher at an inner city school and the refs remind me of my classroom. Me, the ref has zero respect from the students, the players. They didn't even know I existed. And the harder you tried to come down on them, the more they don't care. They knew I couldn't stop them. I really wanted to handle them in the class, but I couldn't. Then you gotta call an administrator (Goodell) and instead of detention they get fined. And the principal has to stand by you because they hired you last minute and made you move across the country in less than a week.
—Matt, Charleston, SC
SG: It's true, every replacement ref was basically Prezbo from The Wire. There was no chance of anyone pulling off a Michelle Pfeiffer/Dangerous Minds moment, either. By the way, when was the last time you watched Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" video for Dangerous Minds? It's hilariously dated. What chain of events needs to happen for Coolio and Michelle Pfeiffer to shoot something together again? And how can I help?
Q: During the summers of my childhood I remember staying up late and watching Happy Days on Nick at Nite with my dad. We'd stay up reminiscing about what he did during his childhood and how Happy Days was such a huge part of the popular culture during that time period. For my generation the NFL has become our Happy Days — we spend our weeks looking forward to Sundays and our summers pining for the falls in which we get to delay our shitty work lives by one more day watching the greatest reality television show ever created. As punishment for the slow and painful ruination of Americas favorite pastime, can I ask you as your first act of Sports Czar to lock Goodell, the regular referee's union rep and DeMaurice Smith (for the way he handled the lockout, the Saints, concussions, etc.) and have them watch the "Jump the Shark" episode until their eyes and skin melt, like in Raiders of the Lost Ark, so that they may fully realize what it is they are doing to an American staple of popular culture?
—Patrick Bradley, Garden City
SG: I think they finally realized it. Still, wouldn't a Sports Czar have come in handy these past few weeks? On Tuesday afternoon, he or she could have appeared on various shows and said things like, "I talked to the President — he's as upset as anyone" and "I tried to warn everyone that we were headed for a disaster; nobody would listen!" At least we would have felt like someone was trying. The general lawlessness of sports right now — between the secondary-ticket market craziness, the NHL lockout, the NFL's ref crisis, the lack of regulation in boxing, the lack of Wi-Fi in football stadiums, the concussion crisis and everything else — almost demands a Sports Czar, right? This isn't a full-time job? Couldn't we elect this person every three or four years? How would they make sports worse? Well, unless Gary Bettman got the job.
Q: You mentioned a reader's idea that Romney should offer the referees $50 million to come back (as a political ploy). You realize that Romney is about as anti-union as you can possibly get? If he threw his money at the striking refs it would go against every previous position he ever took as a public
oh wait that is perfect for Romney!!
—Charles, Los Angeles
SG: (Afraid to say anything.)
Q: You picked Oakland, Baltimore and Philly as the favorites for our first replacement referee riot. Ummm — did you forget the actual riot caused in Cleveland when non-replacement refs belatedly overturned a fourth down conversion against Jacksonville and cost the Browns a shot in the playoffs? You could not purchase a bottle of beer at a sporting event for almost a year after the Dawg Pound figured out that they were projectiles. Never ever underestimate the anger of a Cleveland fan. Philly fans booed Santa — that's cute. Raiders fans dress like its Halloween — so do little children. Browns fans momentarily changed how people were allowed to drink in stadiums.
Q: We rioted against the real refs? Remember?
God may hate Cleveland, but deep down, we kind of hate everyone else.
SG: My bad, my bad. I have no excuse. Cleveland's already lost enough. At the very least, you should have been the no. 2 co-favorites with Philly. By the way, only Cleveland fans would complain about being left off a "Which fans are the most likely ones to be involved in a replacement referee riot?" debate.
Q: It's become clear that Roger Goodell is a Manchurian Candidate planted by FIFA to ruin the NFL and increase soccer's popularity in the US. Nothing else makes any sense why a multi-billion dollar enterprise would risk its entire product over relatively small amount of money.
—Geoff Schneider, NYC
SG: Come on, know your facts. This was about pensions. If they gave the refs a pension plan, then they'd have to give league employees a pension plan and improve the players' pension plans in their next deal. By the time the whole thing is over, they'd barely have enough money left to oh, wait, they would have had plenty of money left. I forgot. You're right, Goodell might be an Italian FIFA operative working undercover. It's in play. Maybe he got caught and that's why the lockout ended.
Q: When sports historians are looking back a 1,000 years from now, that Packers-Seahawks game will be the approximate cause of the rise of soccer in the United States of America.
—Brian Capp, Scottsdale, AZ
SG: And FIFA undercover operative Giancarlo Goodellio will be praised as the guy who pulled it off.
Q: Where did Packers/Seattle rank on your list of pantheon gambling endings?
—Tony, Plymouth, MI
SG: For my money (literally), The Music City Miracle will always be first. Playoff game, swung every bet, came out of nowhere you just can't top it. From there, it's a short list of unforgettable moments like Chris Duhon's meaningless one-legged 3 to cover 2004's Duke-UConn Final Four game, Adam Vinatieri's two-point run on Sunday night against a team that had already left the field, Robin Ventura's Non-Grand Slam, the Monday Night Miracle (Vinny and the Jets), Monday's Seahawks-Packers game and Troy Polamalu's disallowed fumble return TD that cost the Steelers a cheap cover on Sunday night in 2008 (against San Diego). When I'm running ESPN someday, you'll get to relive all of them in our new weekly prime-time series, Broken Thumbs.
Q: When Roger caves and brings back the refs, isn't it going to be incredible the ovation the refs get? I think every home team, instead of announcing the starting lineups before the game, should announce the officials. How would it not be hilarious to have Ed Hochuli run out to 65,000 fans going crazy for "FROM MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN, NUMBER 85
" And then Ed doing a Ray Lewis-esque entrance dance?
SG: Co-sign!!!!!!! COOOOOOOOO-SIGNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Q: Isn't this referee lock-out a (depressing) reflection of where we are right now in the U.S. as a country and a culture? We care more about winning than producing the best outcome (Goodell wanting to win the lockout against the refs, as opposed to working out a mutually beneficial compromise in a timely fashion). We have created a set of rules that, while complex, have allowed us to debate outcomes, especially true because we do not have faith in those who are deciding those outcomes. (I think if that same play had happened, but been ruled an interception, there still would have been a big fuss about it, because we don't trust the replacement refs; our lack of faith affects our reaction.) We get enraged and we vent, but we don't DO anything. We can see that what is in front of us isn't working, but we sit and complain and keep working and trying to "win." Same with the election. We complain about attack ads, we complain about the rules that govern campaign financing, but in the end we will sit back and vote and not DO anything. We care more about winning than we do about creating the best outcome. Have I mentioned that I hate election years? And yes I did have to look up how to spell microcosm.
SG: That got pretty deep. I think we need to loosen things up a little.
Q: In Replacements 2 (straight-to-DVD obviously), I see Artie Lange playing a once great referee. He was at the top of his game until a blown call in the Super Bowl shattered his confidence and led him down a dark path of alcohol abuse and lethargy. Cue the 2012 Referee strike and a desperate league seeks out the services of this once revered ref. Cue the hijinks, drama, and ultimate redemption for our hero. There's an opportunity for some great cameos here. Wouldn't this be great? Wouldn't you have to watch it a couple of times (even if it's just for a We Found it On Neflix Instant Watch column)? Isn't this what Artie Lange's career needs? How quickly can you get your Hollywood connections on this?
—Micah L, Washington
SG: My favorite part of this e-mail — Micah thinking he found the perfect way to invigorate Artie Lange's career by giving him the starring role in a straight-to-DVD movie sequel.
Q: The best solution to this whole situation is selling ad space on the refs' uniforms. Give the refs 80 or 90 percent of the revenue to use however they want
better pension? Here's $10 million from Budweiser, your new official beer. Higher game checks? Great, just announce the Verizon Call of the Game whenever you have to explain a challenge. Need sweet new authentic zebra skin shirts for the Super Bowl? Cool, Visa just became the preferred card of refs everywhere. This is a win/win for both sides, the NFL doesn't have to pony up any more money and they refs get all the perks they want. You could even make more money by selling ads for specific refs and games. Ed Hochuli's guns, now brought to you by Gold's Gym. As sports czar, we need you to make this happen.
—Mike, Newington, CT
SG: Re-running this e-mail from Tuesday's mailbox and adding this point — what better way for the NFL to humiliate the returning referees than giving them their money (which they did), then forcing them to wear sponsored uniforms every week to pay for that money? It's Week 8 in the NFL, and don't forget, today's referees will be sponsored by Trojan's Vibrating Tri-Phoria!
Q: For years I've heard you talk about creating the position of Sports Czar. I haven't heard much detail about exactly how the office would work, but I'm curious as to how you'd address the current NFL referee situation. How much power would you have to dictate the negotiations? Could you come in and mandate the terms? Would you be able to fire Goodell? I'm leaning towards voting you as Sports Czar, but how you would handle this situation will be the deciding factor.
—Drew, Charlotte, NC
SG: Thanks Drew! Every vote for this fake election counts. The answer to your question depends on how much autonomy the Sports Czar had. Would I have more power than Roger Goodell/Giancarlo Goodellio? Would I have the authority to supplant Goodell in the negotiations and order a deal to get done? How much would the owners respect me? How much would President Obama empower me? Could I use political leverage/capital to get this done, and what would that leverage/capital be? For instance, let's say three NFL teams wanted help funding new stadiums — could the Sports Czar potentially say, "If we get this ref deal done for the sake of America, then I'll try to help you with X, Y and Z"? I can't answer that question without knowing exactly how much power I'd have — too many hypotheticals.
(Important note: See how I ducked that question? I just boosted my chances for the Sports Czar spot — that answer was handled like a savvy politican!)
Q: Is it just the pro wrestling fan in me or are the replacement refs actually making these games MORE exciting? All we're missing is refs turning around to argue with the home team quarterback, missing the completion into the endzone, and turning around after one of the defensive players has hit the receiver with a chair (in the back--concussions, you know) and grabbed the ball to rule the play a fumble recovery by the defense. Or a referee knocked unconscious in a collision late in the game so he can't see the home team frantically calling timeout, forcing our hometown heroes to drive down the field with the clock still running, with the ref coming to just in time to signal the winning touchdown. I LOVE this game!
—Earl H., Stamford
SG: Speaking of wrestling, how much better would Monday night have been if Jim Ross announced the winning play? Here's the final throw by Wilson, it's headed toward the end zone and it's intercepted by the Packers! (Pause.) Wait a second. (Pause.) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! MY GOD NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is there still time? Why can't WWE start a YouTube series called "J.R. Retroactively Announces Real Sporting Events"?
Q: You know how you can tell the scab-refs are doing a great job? I was reading all 30 stories on how they blew the Packers-Seahawks game when I saw a link to a Grantland story about them doing such a horrible job and reaching the "breaking point". I then realized that story was posted Monday afternoon and was about Pats-Ravens. Pretty bad when the worst officiated game of all time holds the title for about 20 hours.
—Kevin Dodgson, NYC
SG: Yeah, that was like the Pacquiao-Bradley fight being the undercard for the famous Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels match from Montreal. People keep asking if we're working on a 30 for 30 about the replacement-ref fiasco someday — don't you feel like we need a decade or more to fully digest what happened? I mean, these guys did the impossible. They briefly ruined the NFL, the single safest entertainment bet in America. I don't know if you can put that in its proper perspective until something like 2025.
Q: I know I'm in the minority here, but I don't think enough people truly appreciated the beauty of the chaos that occurred on Monday night. It had everything! There was a streaker, Rodgers got hit with more sacks than Jenna Jameson's chin, refs single handedly decided the outcome of the game, and Steve Young exploded. The only way I could possibly have envisioned this being any better would be if the game were in Philadelphia and the call went against the Eagles. A shirtless Ed Hochuli would charge onto the field with his arms outstretched screaming "Are you not entertained?!"
—Bryson, Shelbyville, IL
SG: Come on, you stole that Jameson joke from Peter King.
Q: Am I the only one who thinks there needs to be a "Replacement Referee Mode" on the next Madden? It would add such an element of randomness. Just imagine it: Your quarterback executes the perfect fade pass for a touchdown to take the lead, but right as you're turning to your buddy to give him crap, you see that the Madden Replacement Referee has flagged you for roughing the punter. You would never know what to expect.
—D.R., San Antonio
SG: They already have that mode — it's called "The No F---ing Way Game." Usually happens in franchise mode when you're 5-0 or 6-0, then a chip activates inside the game and kicks it into "There's No F---ing Way You're Winning This Game" mode (which I've written about a hundred times). Maybe Madden could actually brand this moment as a "Replacement Refs" game — you're 6-0, and suddenly you see Replacement Don King and Lance Easley on the field and think, Oh no oh God.
Q: My entries into the "What should we call what happened in Seattle" sweepstakes:
• The Seattle Screwjob
• Speechless in Seattle
• The Northern Pacific Railroading
• Blown Calling in Cedars
• The Replacement Killers
--Andrew D., Chicago
SG: I still like Goldengate but "The Replacement Killers" is pretty damned good. Maybe that's what we'll call next year's Lifetime movie about a fake ref named "Vance Beasley" throwing a Monday-night game to pay off gambling debts (starring my man Tom Cavanagh, of course).
Q: I don't know whether I hate these new refs for ignoring vicious hits or whether I love them for bringing back '80s and '90s football, in which receivers going over the middle should (and will be) punished for doing so. I can't decide. No matter what the ultimate decision is with this lockout, either the NFL needs to cash in on it by putting out some NFL Hits videos of these first few weeks (like they had in the '80s and '90s) OR they need to hire back the real refs that would (at the very least) penalize a helmet-to-helmet hit that nearly killed Darius Heyward-Bey in Week 3 vs. Pittsburg. FYI — according to the refs on the field, that was a clean, perfectly legal hit
that knocked him unconscious and sent him to the hospital. I had to rewind the DVR five times to fully appreciate the damage done. I know I'm a bad person for doing so, but dammit, that reminded me of old-school football. Remind me to send some money to Heyward-Bey's nursing home when he has early-onset dementia at age 45. Meanwhile, I'm going to continue watching the new (old) NFL.
—Shannon, San Diego
SG: Hold on, I'm trying to figure out how many lines Shannon just crossed there. I think we ended up at three. He raised a good point, though — offenses had been taking advantage of the safety-first rules by repeatedly sending receivers over the middle, but during those first three weeks, they were putting those receivers in real danger because the repercussions for a monster hit just haven't been the same. In my mind, the Heyward-Bey hit should have ended the lockout — I watched that live with some friends and, for about three seconds, we actually thought he was dead. No flag! Nothing! I wrote this last spring, I wrote it the past few weeks and I'm writing it again: There isn't a more hypocritical league than the NFL. After all the belated, fear-of-lawsuit-induced fuss they made about player safety these past two years, they just spent the past few weeks putting their players in danger and failing to police their play properly. I just wish the Super Bowl was in New Orleans this season so Goodell could spend that week getting booed everywhere he went.
(What? The Super Bowl is in New Orleans???? Are you kidding???? This is fantastic! I wouldn't order room service that week, Rog.)
Q: Easy and awesome Halloween idea: Replacement Ref. You just have to look like a regular ref, and then you get to act like a jackass all night! Tried to sneak into a bar and got caught? I didn't know the rules! I'm a replacement ref! Spill a drink all over the sexy bee at the Halloween party? Whoops! I'm a replacement ref! Threw up all over the taxi? I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS KIND OF PRESSURE. I'M A REPLACEMENT REF.
SG: Plus, you wouldn't have to buy a drink all night. Where's my wallet? Has anyone seen my wallet? I think I lost it! I'm a replacement ref!
Q: I'm considering dressing up as Roger Goodell for Halloween. I figure all you'd need to do is wear a suit, stuff the pockets to overflow with fake money and wear one of those gold Caesar crowns. Then you could get a stationary shop to make a custom "Fines" post-it pad so that you could walk around handing out fines indescriminately all night. $10,000 for spilling beer!! Did I leave anything out that would make the costume better?
—Ben A., Chicago
SG: Yeah — you need to spend the night talking about how important safe sex and abstinence are, then have unprotected sex with a stranger at 3 a.m.
Q: This whole replacement-ref things has me convinced of one thing, though: Roger Godell (purposeful misspelling) thinks he's 1997 Eric Bischoff. He bros up all the new guys; tries to play-up to his stars while taking pot-shots at guys we've heard-of but don't have an emotional investment in
all be cause he thinks he's the genius who will knock-off his rival who's league is coming off of a bit of a down-turn (NBA/Stern). At first, everyone buys in to the "I'm the Commish and I'm a bad-ass, just like they did in WCW with Bischoff when he introduced the nWo. "Boo! Stern! Boo! Vince! Yay new-not WWF!" But after about a year of making huge mistakes and then trying to make up a preposterous story-line to cover it, it eventually becomes a disaster than people still can't bring themselvs turn off. "Dear God! That's! That's! That's David Arquette! What in name of New York City is he doing on the football field!?!?
Folks, I've been told that David Arquette has been named special guest referee of Super Bowl." This will not end well.
—Chuck Norton, Atlanta
SG: So if you're scoring at home, Roger Goodell has now been successfully compared to not one but TWO different "evil" wrestling promoters in the same posthumous ref lockout mailbag. Even the Notorious DJS in his prime couldn't have pulled that off. That reminds me — I'm excited to see how David Stern reclaims his "Evil Commissioner" throne these next few weeks. Normally, this is the point of the year when the NBA always does something weird to get people talking. He's REALLY going to have to step it up this year. Will he ban tattoos? Will he ban NBA players from tweeting? Will he announce that any player or coach who makes a political statement before the election is fined $100,000? Will he look the other way as Minnesota makes a concerted effort to field the first team in six decades with no black players? Oh, wait, that's already happening.
Q: After the review of final play of the of the Packers/Seahawks game, what if the referee went to announce the result of the review and added personal reasons why it was upheld. "The ruling on the field stands
because I want to buy a Porsche with my winnings?" Or, "The ruling on the field stands
because the bank was going to seize my house unless I came up with the money this week." Then Tim Donaghy could serve as an analyst on NFL Replacement Officials Live, trying to get into the head of how each game will be fixed. It would be ESPN's newest hit!
SG: I wish ESPN could have a do-over on the ref lockout. We should have had Replacement Ref 24/7 and Fake Referee Real World. We should have used those Little League "Get to Know the Refs" graphics on Monday Night Football. We should have been simulcasting MNF games on ESPN2 with Jim Ross announcing them. We should have had Tim Donaghy, Earl Hebner and a bummed-out John Buccigross hosting NFL Replacement Officials Live. Thank God we're booking Don King and Fake Don King for a week of PTI — it's the least we can do.
Q: In season 8 of Homeland, does Sgt. Brody become the commissioner of the NFL?
SG: Too soon.
Q: The greatest part of the fiasco on Monday Night Football? Following the madness on Twitter. One of my co-workers is a die-hard Raiders fan and brought up the point that Twitter literally would have exploded had it existed the night of the Tuck Rule. Along those lines, we started wondering about some of the other crazy sports moments that would have been exponentially more entertaining had Twitter existed. Another co-worker brought up O.J. and the white Bronco which is an absolute no-brainer. If Joe Lunardi was doing this bracket style, what are the other 1-seeds? Tyson biting off Holyfield's ear? Artest going into the stands? The Stanford-Cal band on the field? It can't just be "greatest moments ever" though as there has to be a certain "WTF just happened/is happening" component.
—Micah, West Hartford
SG: I'm almost positive I answered this question before, but let's run it back. Tyson/Holyfield seems like it should be up there on paper, but it was a pay-per-view, which limited the total audience. For me, OJ's Car Chase and the Artest Melee are the Bird and Magic of this question — you can't mention one without the other. They had the perfect blend of "WTF is happening?," "I need to alert other people that this is happening" and "I'm compelled to share my disbelief with the disbelief of others," which makes for the perfect Twitter storm. But OJ's car chase wasn't funny in the moment because we all thought it was going to end with the Juice killing himself on live TV. That part can't be forgotten. There was nothing funny about the Bronco Chase until police took him into custody. And even then, it was more dumbfounding than anything.
Meanwhile, the Artest Melee was frightening/insane/mesmerizing for about eight minutes — would anyone have even been able to pull their eyes away from the TV long enough to tweet? — and then, starting with Jim Gray's hilariously terrified report from courtside, what happened became funny (in a macabre way) once we realized nobody had been hurt. You also had the "What the hell just happened?" element — it would have taken hours just to figure out exactly what went down and who was who (for instance, that the guy punching Fred Jones was Ben Wallace's brother), and we also would have been reading tweets and reports from media people who were there. Throw in the YouTube clips and the GIF of Jermaine O'Neal punching out Turtle and I can't imagine how we would have topped the Artest Melee as a Twitter night. Remember, that was a night that led to not one but TWO columns from me. A two-column night! How can that not be the no. 1 pick?
Q: How great was Monday for Twitter? Moves ahead of the Womens World Cup vs. Japan as the #2 moment in Twitters history. Top 5:
#1. Bin Laden's Death
#3. World Cup USA vs. Japan
#4. Tebow's TD against the Steelers
#5. Clint Eastwood's Chair Riff
Man Twitter is the best. Seriously.
—David C., San Jose
SG: I can't believe you left The Decision off there. For me, it's the first three plus The Decision. Here's what I loved about Monday Night: It nailed the three WTF/need-to-alert/share-my-disbelief categories while also managing to IMMEDIATELY be funny. I can't remember a funnier hour on Twitter. I really can't. My only regret was screwing up my "Mike McCarthy should have ran back out onto the field naked from the waist down" joke right before the extra point. Wrong tense. Should have written "run back." And to think, I write for a living.
Q: Monday night may have been one of the most bizarre nights I've ever experienced in my 24 years of living. I met some neighbors on my street late night on Saturday, including this 22-year-old woman with full on metal braces. Evidently my drunken self left quite the impression just by talking for ten minutes. Fast forward to Monday night, watching the Packers-Hawks game in bed and I hear a banging on my front door around 11:25 p.m.. This happens three times in ten minutes so I finally go down to answer. There is the girl who just met me standing there in nothing but a sweatshirt, no pants or nothing and its 50 degrees out, asking me what my plans are this weekend and proceeds to ask me out on a date. She suggests we go to an apple orchard nearby and then dinner. I'm speechless. She is a 4 out of 10 and that's being kind. I hand her my number and just tell her to text me sometime. I didn't want to give the wrong number in the fear that this girl knows where I live and who knows what may happen if I lied. She leaves, I go back to my room trying to figure out what just happened. And then Russell Wilson tosses a ball into the endzone with :01 left in the 4th quarter.
—Greg B. Philly
SG: Yup, these are my readers. And on that note, let's get to my Thursday Skunk of the Week.
I always lean toward grabbing 12 or more points in any NFL game unless one or more of the following conditions apply:
A. I'm going against a home team playing a night game.
B. I'm going against a top-five team playing at home.
C. A + B.
D. I don't trust the QB on the road team even a little.
E. The road team doesn't have one of those offenses that can easily get you a garbage-time touchdown cover when you're trailing by 17 with 90 seconds left.
Tonight's Browns-Ravens game (Baltimore favored by 12) somehow hits all five of those checkmarks and we didn't even mention yet that it's Brandon Weeden's first nationally televised game. Yikes. Vegas can't make this line high enough. I'm laying the points. Baltimore, you've been sprayed.
Last Week: 8-8
Thursday Record: 0-3
Sunday/Monday Record: 24-19-2