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I'm sure the NFL's replacement officials are decent enough fellows when they are off the field. The problem is that describing their performance on the field as decent would be disrespectful to anything that has ever been slightly better than mediocre: That includes meatloaf (food and singer); the movie "Avatar", and the 1980's super group, "Mike + the Mechanics" youtube.com/watch?v=uGDA0Hecw1k.

We've all seen the missed calls, nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap2000000066000/Hail-Mary-for-Hawks, the total lack of player control on the football field, and overall incompetence. I mean is it really necessary to have a five-minute conference at midfield just to determine if an offensive lineman moving before the ball is snapped still constitutes a false start?

But I'm here to say that all this anger directed at these folks is unfair.

For one, these guys have been asked to complete a task that they are not qualified to do. Before this season, these guys were barely qualified to officiate a Meade High game, forget about professional games where the people who must live by the rules know more than the people who are trying to enforce them. That would be the equivalent of someone hiring me, and my 20-200 vision, to look for needles in a haystack, or work someplace that would require me to slip into tight spaces even though it's obvious this physique isn't made for tight spaces.

So, what did the NFL expect?

And since we are on the topic of the NFL, what happened to their mantras "Protect the shield" and "Protect the players?"

Right now it seems like the only things the NFL are trying to protect are the egos of the owners. How else can you explain the almost defiant defense of the replacement officials' performance in both word and deed?

The answer is, you can't. Even without knowing the ins and outs of the current dispute between the regular officials and the league, it is clear the NFL is being hypocritical and has chosen to defend the ridiculous as opposed to show contrition.

But of course this isn't the first time the NFL has force fed its version of reality on us. Look no further than its handling of bounty gate and its treatment of former players in regard to health and pensions.

The league is not the only organization responsible for this mess, however. The media has a role to play as well. I know how lame that sounds, but have you noticed that every call is now accompanied by at least a 10-second reference to officiating, or that every game must include at least a five-minute rant about officiating? (I guess it's good that the officials are providing all this extra time for the announcers to fit in their tirades.) It's like the guys on Monday night are competing with the rant that they heard on Sunday night, and the guys on Sunday night are trying to be more vehement than whatever they heard earlier in the day. It's ridiculous and a prime example of agenda setting that is perpetrated when the rants during the game become the top sports headline or discussion topic on sports radio.

But let's not get it twisted. The group most responsible for this issue isn't the officials or the media. It is us, the fans. We're the ones who put up with this nonsense, and if we really wanted to, we could do something about it. Namely, we could stop supporting the league until they get things straight.

Of course that's not feasible. My Cowboys flag is still hanging on my lamp post. I'm still going to watch the Ravens on Thursday. I'll still check my fantasy teams. My assumption is most of you will do the same, and that's fine. It just needs to be made clear that the replacement refs are a symptom of the much-larger issue, which is we are owned by the league. It is the itch we can't scratch, the monkey we can't pull of our backs, and the wagon we can't stay on.

Two more points and then I'm out.

1) In two weeks, when the regular officials are back, inshallah, we won't even remember why we were so mad in the first place.

2) The regular refs made some pretty big mistakes too. ow.ly/e0kE5; youtube.com/watch?v=fiD9cF48AE0. And since our friend, Brandon, put in the work, football certainly doesn't own the market on poor officiating: youtu.be/j5HTFZainm4; youtu.be/2VWAtMxXVCs (Of course B had to put hockey in there.)

If you have comments on this or anything to do with sports, contact me at chad.t.jones.civ@mail.mil.

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