Count those 3 words among the phrases I never thought I would write.
Adam Schefter, on ESPN yesterday, rather presciently predicted, and I quote:
The mistakes they've (replacement refs) made ultimately have not lead to the direct win or loss of a game, yet, YET, but as long as they're out there, it's only a matter of time before it happens.
Not very much time, apparently. Last night, on ESPN's hallmark game of Monday Night Football, the final play of the game and ultimately the outcome was decided by the referees. Clear offensive pass interference was not called. An interception was called a touchdown because the offensive player was able to keep a hand on the ball when the Green Bay defender had clear possession. Seattle is given a win. Don't hold back, coach Herm Edwards. Tell us what you really think.
We always talk about the shield and protecting the integrity of football. And we talk about the game. We want to talk about the game. We're not talking about the game right now. That's not, that's not good for the National Football League. We should be talking about the game and not the officials.
But we are talking about the officials, and the fact that they have undercut the integrity of the game. At current point, the NFL appears more like Calvinball than it does football, and has little more integrity. San Francisco is awarded 4 challenges? The Niners and Seahawks get extra time outs? This is not professional sport. And that's where the discussion should focus.
NFL football is a sport, where individuals compete given a specific set of rules, rules that with the scabs have become arbitrary. But the NFL is professional sport, a business generating over 11 billion dollars a year. That money comes from fans, and as a fan, I'm getting ripped off when the professional integrity has left the game. Schefter makes a huge point when he indicates that there is no accountability for the scabs. Lo, a few years ago, the Denver Broncos got a win because the officials blew a fumble call on Jay Cutler. Ed 'muscles' Hochuli took responsibility for the call, announced that they'd blown it in real time, and faced the consequences. He was removed as the head of officials. Without the NFL officials being organized as a labor group, no such accountability can be had. These 'replacements' are accountable only to those who pay them to keep the game going, regardless of performance.
I have compassion for the 'replacements'. They are getting to live a dream. But that isn't where my money should go. My money should go to supporting the professional sport I love, with professionals playing, coaching, administrating and officiating. These people are not professionals. They are mercenaries hired to put pressure on the professionals and keep the profit flowing. They are not "replacement officials". They obviously aren't qualified to be, yet. As a fan, would you want the crew from last night officiating the Super Bowl? Didn't think so. As much as I feel for these folks, they are nothing more than Scabs, people called in to maintain an illusion of integrity that favors the money folk ripping us off for sub-standard product. I don't really understand why the money men don't get this. This isn't just about the mega-bucks Super Bowl or even the playoffs. There is enough parity in the NFL that the scabs last night may have decided that the Seahawks make the playoffs and the Green Bay Packers sit home in January. As long as non-professionals keep calling the rules of the game, the integrity of the sport is questionable to non-existent.
Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe has pointed out on the Twitters that only those who pay can force this issue to move. People need to boycott until they get the product they were promised. And so I will. I live 600 miles from the closest NFL venue, that of my beloved Broncos. I can't give up my seat at the games. But here's what I can do:
I refuse to call the replacement officials "replacement officials". They are scabs. Calling them "replacement officials" tacitly agrees they can do the job when obviously they can't. I will not support owners by cow-towing to their preferred terminology.
I am dropping the NFL package on my cable service until this labor dispute resolved. I'm not getting what I paying for anyway.
I will not participate in the Fantasy Football league I am commissioner of. If I am required by other team managers to take action, I will. I owe that to them, not Yahoo or the NFL. But I will not update my team or participate beyond the necessary.
I will not watch NFL Football. I have college football and the Bobcats to keep me company. There is still some integrity in that.
Before any smug asshole tells me that my boycott is useless, let me state upfront, I don't care. I boycott Walmart and haven't shopped anything there in years. It certainly doesn't affect the Waltons but it serves me. There will never be any integrity to Walmart, china producing asshole America haters as they are. But integrity can return to the NFL. All we have to do is tell them that we don't like their sub-standard product. I urge any reader who loves football to join me. We deserve better. Let's let the owners know that.
No, I am not writing about football, though that's pretty damned good too.
Many years ago, WAAAYYY on back when I was 12, Autumn was a truly special thing. I grew up in the Bitterroot Valley. Everywhere you went in my small little domain you could find plums ripening in the wild. The scent of apples and dill was pervasive. Horses were looking shaggy, and the yellowjacket wasps were moving slower. I had just entered junior high. The building was an impressive three story structure, with the band room on top, and two staircases. Our math teacher would stand at the bottom oggling girls behinds as they walked up. I still dream about that building sometimes. It's been torn down now, I understand. Progress and all that. I had a very different set of friends, most of them long removed from my reality. I don't really miss them, because I remember the time, and have moved so very far from made them friends ion the first place. I could do sleep-overs then. It was the first time I ever had beef tongue with noodles and mustard. That was actually pretty good. Life was about bubblegum, being outdoors, chores and growing up. I was eligible to take hunter's safety.
As Autumn set in, hunter's safety classes got more good better. When we left, it was dark, and Autumn nights called. Since I lived out of town, I would occasionally stay with a friend in town. He was the first guy I ever shot a gun with, his Dad's 12 gauge shotgun. I held that thing away from my shoulder and pulled both triggers to fire both barrels. It's a good thing that the young are resilient to damage.
The NFC is where the real drama will take place this year. The AFC is frankly kind of cut and dried.
This division is the easiest of all to pick. They face one of the easier schedules, and only injury can really change the dynamic. The Patriots own this division, as they have for over a decade now. Satan Hoodie didn't get cute with draft picks this year, he drafted positions that need help. The defense will still not excel, but will be competent enough as the offense scores 30+ points a game. The Jets have the advantage on overall defense, but defense doesn't win championships if there is no scoring. I'm going out on a limb, as I often do with my pre-season picks, and suggest that Tim Tebow will replace Mark Sanchez by week 5. Ryan is a publicity hound, which probably works in the city of New York. If you can't win, at least put asses in the seats, and Tebow will do that. Buffalo is the sleeper. I will not be even a little surprised if Buffalo makes the playoffs this year. The Dolphins seem determined to ride the bottom of the AFC for years to come.
New England (likely will make the AFC championship and equally likely the AFC Champs.)
New York Jets
Steelers - Ravens. It's almost getting boring. The Steelers ride momentum like no team I've ever seen. If they win in Denver on Sunday Night then Pittsburgh could easily win the North, and I think they will regardless. Rapistburger is a much better quarterback than Flacco, and I'm sick of hearing how Flacco is bordering on elite. No, he's not. Ray Rice is elite, but running doesn't take championships in the modern NFL. The Ravens have dirty defense and Rice. This year, I don't think that's enough, though they will likely play on WildCard weekend. The Bengals and the Browns will continue their slog as 'also rans', though I think this year, the Browns are building.
Now this gets fun. Having seen Andrew Luck in the pre-season, he's really all that good, and I don't doubt he will be one of the elite in 4 years. But Indy has a long way to go to be a complete football team in a division that features monster defense like Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville. Concerning the latter, everyone in division focuses on shutting down MJD, and he has a poor year for an NFl rushing leader. Tennessee ? Seriously, it could go any which way. The south is ruled by Houston. It isn't just Arian Foster. It isn't just that defense. Kubiak has built a solid organization. They win the south handily.
It is a hallmark 0f weak divisions that the worst goes to first in successive years. Two years ago, Kansas City did that. That was a year in which the Raiders won every division game. No other rival went better than 2-4 in division. Yet the Chiefs went 10-6 overall. The Denver Broncos posted 4-12. Last year, the Broncos went from worst to first riding Tebow magic. The Raiders will not continue this trend.
This will be the tightest division in the NFL. I don't expect any team to post a record of better than 11-5. The others will be right there yapping at the heels. Much is being made of Payton Manning in the AFC West, and it should be. But all these teams have built power defenses (save the Raiders who think speed is the solution to all problems.) Most of the experts are discounting Manning, and yet strangely next to none are counting on the weakness of Norv Turner. If anyone beats the Broncos to the top, it won't be San Diego. It will be the Kansas City Chiefs. This division is no longer weak.
People online love to play intellectual (or often juvenile) games of reasoned curiosity. Face-of-Evil book thrives on such things. "How long would you survive a Zombie apocalypse?" "What is your spirit animal?" Sometimes the games get more in depth and appeal to special interests, for example when Moorcat blogs about the best firearm for a Zombpocalypse.
Geoff Micks poses a doozy, one I feel compelled to share with you here:
For several years now, the NFL has begun the season of play on Thursday. But this year, it begins on Wednesday. Wednesday? For fuck's sake, Wednesday? Seriously? The goddamned game should begin as Dog intended on Sunday. But no. Still, Wednesday? The NFL needs to get a sack and just quit being a corporate whore. I hate this Wednesday crap.
It's time, nevertheless, to make my predictions for the divisions. Time is limited, so I won't spend a great deal of time on pontification.
NFC - East
The Giants have the toughest schedule of any team in the NFL. Still, they have the most complete package for winning their division, and Eli is finally being seen as the quarterback he should have been accepted as years ago. The Giants win this division, hands down. The Eagles have strength, but Vick is fragile (at best). Shanahan remains myopically focused on the quarterback positions, such that RGIII will be the most sacked quarterback in the NFC. Hello, Mike. An offensive line? Maybe? Drafting two rookie quarterbacks was a really bad idea. The Cowboys remain looking white and grey mediocre. Romo should have been traded to a team that would let him excel long ago. As it is, he will spend the season running for his life, and be barely okay.
New York Giants
NFC - North
The Experts are way high on the Green Bay Packers this year. More than a few are predicting a 16-0 run. Balderdash. Every team will face injury, and the Green Bay Defense is over rated by far. The Bears have the basics for a huge offensive output, and the stability at defense. The best offense in the NFC Norris division will be the Lions. Hello? Megatron!? Oh, yeah, I guess there is a team in Minnesota as well.
Green Bay Packers
NFC - South
Without a coach, the New Orleans Saints still remain a head and a half above any team currently in the wetlands. In my not so humble opinion (regarding football) Drew Brees is the best QB currently playing in the game. Still, this division plays the AFC west, which will likely be a defensive powerhouse this year. Atlanta has the best matchups against strong defense. Tampa needs help. Carolina could be the great spoiler. This Division could be a lot closer than some folks project, and one of the weaker in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC - West
The west divisions have been the weakest in the league by far for many years. Not s0 much, any more. San Francisco has a dominating defense, and I see no let down in that group this year. The Cardinals have a great receiver, and not much else. I will be the first to admit that I thought Pete Carroll would wash out of the NFL after two years, but he's built something terrific in Seattle. Jeff Fisher is an ego walking. Very much like Shanahan before him, he keeps banking on problem people thinking that he's good enough to correct them into useful players. The first draft pick in 2013 goes to the St. Louis Rams. Yes, they will suck that much.
San Francisco 49ers
St. Louis Rams
Since there is time before the Sunday games, I will do the AFC later.