Disclaimer: I'm not blaming last night's loss on the referees -- that honor belongs to the Patriots defense. But that doesn't mean this isn't an issue that needs to be addressed.
When it comes to Bill Belichick grabbing the official after last night's debacle against the Ravens, I can't help but think of Chris Rock's line about OJ Simpson: "I'm not saying he should've done it, but I understand."
By the time that vengeful, deeply personal battle of a game was over, I'm sure most fans on both sides would've liked to grab a referee, too...by the neck.
Look, you know it and I know it: the officiating this year has been absolutely terrible, across the league. In the first half of last night's game, the refs seemed not to call much of anything, including a vicious forearm to Julian Edelman's face in the end zone courtesy of Ed Reed, and it took quite some time before the flags came out to stop the fights that seemed to follow every play. The refs were clearly intimidated and in over their heads, as the intensity between the two teams threatened to spiral out of control.
I might've felt sorry for them, getting their ears chewed off by both head coaches at every turn, if I hadn't been so mad at them myself. Someone is going to get seriously hurt if the replacements can't get games under better control than that.
The first half was bad enough, but the second half was an absolute travesty. There were too many ridiculous calls to name them all, but in particular I remember a holding call on Devin McCourty on the Ravens' second-to-last scoring drive that was absolutely pathetic.
And of course, who can forget the remarkably synchronized chant of "BULL-SHIT!" that rang out from Ravens fans after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on coach Jim Harbaugh late in the fourth quarter?
It's been argued that the league has no incentive to hurry up its negotiations with the real refs as long as America keeps tuning in to the NFL. I would like to think that the sheer danger these incompetent refs pose to the league's players would be incentive enough for something to be done about this atrocious situation.
But, like most NFL fans increasingly grappling with the thorny moral issues surrounding footbal fandom, I sadly know better than that by now.