POINT MUGU, CA – (Oh Mugu, you’ve done it again!) Replacements are often controversial. Colonel Potter replaced Colonel Blake on MASH. Then Frank Burns was replaced by Charles Winchester III. Woody replaced the beloved Coach on Cheers. Richard Grieco’s Jump Street spin-off Booker was the unfair victim of mid-season replacement, with a spin-off from the Tracy Ullman Show – of all things… and never got another chance because The Simpsons is still on the air. On this site alone we’ve seen a number of replacements…I myself replaced a far flung corespondent who himself was named Replacement Matt.
In sports, being replaced is just part of the job. Wally Pipp was replaced by Lou Gehrig. Joe DiMaggio was replaced in center field by Mickey Mantle. Buck Showalter is often replaced by managers who win the World Series the next year. Peyton Manning was replaced in Indianapolis by Andrew Luck, and so far…well, one game is a small sample size.
The replacements on everyone’s radars yesterday, however, were the officials. Roger Goodell was always on his way to becoming as loathsome as Bud Selig, and this flap with the referees is another mighty step in that direction. There have been replacement officials before – MLB umpires were replaced by their minor league counterparts for 45 days of blown calls in 1979; NBA refs were replaced in 1995 for 68 days of constant whistle blowing in 1995–but, in this case, things might just work out for Goodell and company, and perhaps not so much for Ed Hochuli and company.
Sure there were plenty of gaffes; a fourth time-out called by Seattle probably being the most egregious – but frankly, nothing we haven’t seen before. In last night’s Denver-Steeler game there were a number of times the spotlight shined on the scabs, revealing confused looks flashing across their faces as they struggled with the proper ruling, weren’t exactly on the same page all the time or when the players and coaches tried taking advantage of them. For instance, Ben Roethlisberger calling and getting a time out after the play clock expired. Or when a pivotal sack by the Broncos was nullified by a false start penalty, and for a second it looked like John Fox could actually decline it, even though it was a dead-ball penalty before the snap. They got that one right; the ones they missed I didn’t mind so much.
So screw you, Peyton Manning, trying to run a surprise play at the end of the quarter to try and catch the Steelers with too many men on the field, these beer league refs don’t give a crap about those bush league tactics (though, earlier in the day, the Saints were burned by a 12-man penalty because their guy coming out decided to stop for some bignets on the way to the sideline). As far as I could see, apart from rightfully calling some late helmet to helmet hits, these guys are mostly just letting the players play. Maybe an extra uncalled horse-collar every now and then isn’t such a bad thing? Maybe it is… but the world of the NFL, with automatic replays now after each touchdown and turn over making for some noticeably longer games yesterday – seems on its way to replacing them all with robots soon enough anyway.
Speaking of robots, watch Replacement Matt’s acting in this: