Replacement ref. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
By Simon Samano, USA TODAY
All of America saw it. There's no denying it.
The replacement referees officiating Monday night's game between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons officially embarrassed the NFL.
It was that brutal.
We had a six-minute delay in the first quarter while the replacements tried to figure out what the heck happened when Broncos runningback Knowshon Moreno fumbled, causing players to push and shove. They went at each other in a scrum, then went at the replacements, with some players gettingin their faces and even laying their hands on them.
Complete anarchy, really, which only served as the tip of the iceberg on a night that was a travesty for the officials.
Don't just take my word for it, though. Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Steve Young took notice and laid into the NFL on the air duringthe postgame wrap-up.
"There's a lot of people in the league that would rather break the (referees) union. ... They feel like (officiating) is a commodity," Young said. "But more importantly, everything about the NFL now is inelastic for demand. There's nothing (the league) can do to hurt the demand for the game. So, the bottom line is they don't care.
"Player safety? Doesn't matter in this case. Bringing in Division III officials? Doesn't matter. Because in the end, you're still goingto watch the game."
Young went on.
"There's nothing that changes the demand for the NFL," he said. "So they want to break the union or send a message to them, they don't care about player safety. It doesn't affect the desire for the game. If it affected the desire for the game, they'd come up with a few extra million dollars."
Almost sounds like Young is daring fans to boycott the NFL, doesn't it?
Bottom line here: The NFL, for all its preaching about the "integrity of the game," ought to be ashamed of itself for allowing the referees lockout to last this long. Monday night's game showed that more than any other.