Scott Van Pelt uttered it for the umpteenth time while describing a pass interference call in a September football game and suddenly my mind drifted to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The news reports came out there was still one golden ticket left and the whole world freaked the hell out. Candy shops were emptied, fights broke out, perhaps trampling occurred, new technologies were produced, and, in a word, the world went crazy…for candy bars!
This week, in spite of weeks of jokes and idle threats revolving around bad NFL referees, a call caused the Green Bay Packers to lose a game, and the jokes stopped. Now it’s serious. And with every last drop of “let’s not go overboard here,” the media went overboard. Long-winded monologues about the tribulations of enduring an NFL season where the game is being under-legislated ensued. Oh, the travesty! Oh, disaster! My year is ruined. My life is ruined.
A co-employee of mine chatted me up in the elevator about how he lost $400 on that call. It’s neither here nor there, but maybe stop gambling? Could the problem possibly be your obsession with the game and problem with gambling and not the referees calling the games?
To paraphrase Scott Van Pelt, “People in this country wait all year for this. They wait all year for the fall when they can watch sixteen games. They only have sixteen chances to watch their teams play.”
And it got ruined. Well this is just terrible. Almost as terrible as when you realize that you are not one of the five people who get to tour the chocolate factory.
I love sports. I watch sports every night. I damn near make my living from sports (at least I’m closer than others). I get bent out of shape when my squad loses. I feel tension and soak up every last moment of victory. I played sports. I watch sports. I cover sports. I attend sporting events. I talk about sports. I write about sports. Every fiber in me understands what is going on here and how it makes us feel.
But here it is, and it may be a tough pill to swallow—football is over, prioritized in this country to the point of insanity, and that very point was exposed no more than two minutes after the “egregious” touchdown call by the replacement refs.
We live in a place and time where church can’t run late because it may cut into the first of seven games we’re going to watch that day. I played a noontime game of golf last Saturday; the weather was sixty-six degrees and sunny. I was one of maybe ten people on a normally gridlocked course on account of College Game Day. Millions upon millions of gambling dollars get circulated every week for this game, and if anyone dared get in the way of that it may well cause a catastrophe.
Well, something did get in the way of it, and more than anything else, it exposed the addiction that is running rampant in society today. Folks are generally beside themselves.
“I’m cancelling my NFL Network subscription.”
“I’m going to be one of the seven million people who called the NFL offices to complain.”
Imagine if seven million people called to see how they could help feed starving children somewhere. Shameful. And by the way, there are very few people, I would guess zero, who care about which subscriptions you are canceling.
This is a fun exercise: imagine if 500 random Americans were selected, blindfold, shuttled to a courtroom for a town-hall style meeting, and sat in front of Roger Goodell and the NFL owners sitting on a panel at the front of the room. The place would explode, no? Screaming, throwing, tongue-lashings, cursing, more trampling, and who knows? If there are no cops and no security guards, maybe a handful of the random 500 decide to just beat the shit out of one or two owners.
It’s certainly not a far stretch from players, grown men, professionals, cursing out the commissioner and owners after they lose a game. (And Tweeting it, no less).
Beneath all this noise are some important questions: Who is mad, who is the most mad, why are they mad, and who or what are they mad at? If it’s the players that are mad then so be it. They are perhaps so committed to winning and being the best that it hurts them deeply to be cheated out of a win. But it’s not their livelihood that is being jeopardized by a bad game, or even a bad season of unfortunate breaks. So maybe it’s that they desire to win a championship, and these mistakes made it much harder for them to achieve that goal. Great reason to be mad. That would imply that money is not everything, and winning a championship is far greater an achievement than making seven figures. That’s much nobler.
But it seems like the fans are the maddest. Those, who Van Pelt pointed out so poetically, wait all year for sixteen chances to cheer for their team. The majority of folks act now as if something has been stripped of them. Some right inherent to watching football at the highest level, with very few mistakes. This entitlement is obscene, and the fact that conversations exist in the media about the threat of a boycott ought to make folks think more about Willy Wonka and his factory.
And relax! The real refs will come back, I’m sure! Either that or the bad refs will progressively get better. Either way the quality of the game will return, and all will be well. Everyone will get a chance to ride the Wonka Wash, and everyone will receive a lifetime supply of chocolate! It just might not happen today or tomorrow. Maybe just take a deep breath and watch a less-well-officiated version of your favorite thing in the whole world, even just for a short while. And maybe while this is going on, and even when it’s not going on, stop placing large portions of your income on the line. Save that money and buy some golf clubs or something because the courses are wide open on Saturdays! Or better yet, send that money to someone who needs it. It’s really up to you, and that’s the cool part.
I’m all for competitive spirit, and there are about a million reasons why you should have good referees in a league that generates so much money. But America showed its colors this week, and the populous should recognize how silly it looks getting so bent out of shape over a football game that, oh my gosh, might cost the beloved Green Bay Packers a playoff spot or home field advantage.
I think we’d laugh if we saw folks rioting over a trip to Willy Wonka’s factory. We did laugh, in fact! We laughed and laughed when we saw the movie, even for the fiftieth time. So take a step back and check it out. This is laughable.
No, this is egregious.