Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This May Be A Bigger Problem Than We Thought...

Remember Tim Donaghy?  He was the NBA referee who was found out to be gambling on the games he was officiating.  Remember how for the next couple of years everyone watched NBA games with the preconception that there might be money riding against your team?  This is a situation that no sport can afford.  The integrity of the game is the one thing you cannot mess with.  Having spotty officials is the easiest way to have fans question your game. 

The NFL needs to be careful or it will be in a similar situation.  The full-time referees are currently being locked out of their jobs amidst contract negotiations.  The games are taking longer because the new officials are trying to figure out how to make calls.  It seems they don't even know defensive holding exists.  Players are taking advantage and bending the rules more than usual.  Yet, somehow, none of this is as detrimental as two stories that came out this week.

In the first story, the scheduled side judge for the New Orleans Saints Carolina Panthers game was unceremoniously pulled from the game.  He was yanked because he is shown on his Facebook account to be a huge Saints fan.  There is no way that the NFL can allow someone who has a bias towards one team to officiate that game.  It is just plain stupid.  Didn't the NFL look into these guys before they assigned them games?  I know there are many jobs that when you apply they ask to look at your Facebook, I would have been sure a big company like the NFL would have been one of them.  Brian Stopolo has been seen all decked out in Saints gear, how can he possibly call the game down the middle?  I don't think you can and the NFL has to keep their eyes out for it.

There was another incident according to Philadelphia Eagles running back Leshaun McCoy.  He said to a Philly sports radio show that one of the refs told him that he needs to "step up" because he was starting him on his fantasy team.  What?  First of all it is extremely illegal for any referee to have any sort of involvement with fantasy football while refereeing the games.  Now hearing this all Ravens fans will think there was an agenda behind those two calls that did not go their way.  There can in no way, shape, or form be any kind of agenda when it comes to these replacement refs.

There are fans in the NFL.  Anywhere between 30 and 35 million people participate in fantasy football every year.  There are way too many ways that a referee can have an agenda or rooting interest for one team/player.  It is something we never even had to think about in years past because it seemed as if the refs had that all together.  Beyond fans and fantasy, there is the one thing that can put a black eye on the entire sport.  Gambling.

Sports gambling is the black cloud that hovers over every sport.  It is keeping Pete Rose, the MLB's all time hits leader, out of the Hall of Fame.  It is mainly illegal in most states, but that hasn't stopped people in other instances.  It is growing and is said to one day be a bigger problem on college campuses than drugs.  Gambling is rampant throughout our society because it is thought to be more skills based than other gambling outlets. 

So what is stopping these replacement referees from gambling on these sporting events?  I mean, they are only going to have this job for so long, why not make some side money before it ends?  It is much easier to gamble when you have a say in it anyway.  Can't you see someone thinking just like that?  I am not saying any of my readers would, but I am sure all of my readers know at least one person who would.  So, again I ask, what is stopping them? 

This is a scary possibility and I understand I may be opening Pandora's box, but a possibility it is indeed.  Don't take this as facts because there has been no evidence showing the replacement officials are gambling, but there is proof to fantasy which is close enough to make you think of what else they are trying to do.  Gambling would put a permanent damper on Roger Goodell's legacy.  What would we do?  Would the games still count?  Every bad call is already under a microscope, imagine what people would do if this ever came out? 

There is an easy fix to this problem, bring the refs back.  The NFL is making enough money to buy countries, it can't give a raise to the guys keeping the integrity of the game alive?  Football is special in this country.  It is America's game.  We showed how much we loved it when we almost lost in last year.  We're worried about concussions and bounties, but gambling is the only thing that can put a huge dent into the pockets of the NFL.  Concussions don't make me think twice about watching football, but knowing that something isn't true will.  Roger Goodell, for the love of the game please, I need a little Ed Hochuli back in my life.

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