There’s a nice crisp smell in the air. The nights are getting cooler, bringing to mind two crucial questions. The first, is summer coming to an end? The second, being far more important, as the former Monday Night Football theme song asked Are you ready for some Football? The NFL Season kicked off last Wednesday night with a showdown between defending champs the NY Giants and the newly energized Dallas Cowboys. The season was started amid some controversy though. Some avid fans were hoping to see the chiseled arms of 62 year old Ed Hochuli wearing the zebra stripes, keeping players in check, they were sadly disappointed.
Sometimes there are wonderful coincidences in life. Being a Social Media Analyst and a die-hard sports fan when the idea of doing some research and reporting on a specific topic was tabled, the phrase carpe diem immediately came to mind. So when ideas were being considered for this report and blog, it wasn’t hard to be vocal about the topic.
The NFL is currently in a labor dispute with its officials, over salary and some on field issues. While NHL fans are saying “at least you have a season” NFL fans took to Twitter to voice their opinion on the NFL’s implementation of replacement officials.
Not surprisingly, there was a notable difference in the traffic of mentions on game days as opposed to off days. The other fact that wasn’t shocking was the amount of negative and sarcastic comments made about what could have been perceived as blown calls. Two specific incidents stood out from all of the games over the weekend. There was the block in the back flag on a punt return by the Green Bay Packers’ Randall Cobb against the 49’ers and the four time-outs (the rules state that teams are allowed 3 per half) awarded to the Seattle Seahawks at a crucial point in a close game. The Cobb call was somewhat mitigated by the fact that there were two incidents on the same play. The first incident which drew the attention of the replacement officials was determined not to be a penalty while the second incident was clearly a penalty but went unnoticed. The call in Seattle however, was a poor interpretation of the rules. It was again mitigated by the Arizona Cardinals winning the game, therefore there weren’t any effigies of officials set on fire outside the stadium.
Some very analytical analysis was done by New York Times writer Chase Stuart on the actual numbers of calls made by replacement officials compared to years past. According to his numbers it appears that some of the perceived bias or hesitancy to make calls by replacement officials is not supported by the evidence.
Who was talking about the officials was almost as interesting. There were some standouts in terms of more influential Twitter users that threw in their two cents about the officials:
Roger Goodell was mentioned about as much as I was expecting. Discussion about the refs wasn’t always associated with the labor dispute specifically, but in most instances the NFL should take note that its well educated and observant fan base were slightly incensed. It’s difficult to tell if this was a higher volume of disgruntled fans than past seasons, as that data is not available, but it’s clear that most NFL fans are not “officiating” fans.
Another somewhat surprising revelation was how little the results showed that Fantasy Football team owners opted to take the out of blaming poor weekly results on officiating. Since Fantasy Football has become an increasingly important and growing demographic for the NFL it appears that if a poll of Fantasy Owners was taken, it’s possible they would rule in favor of their real world counterparts. Namely to keep the refs locked out until they take less money, unlikely but possible.