North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Local Sports

September 26, 2012

Robert Carter: Foot Locker is missing some key employees

COMMENTARY — I normally don’t give referees a hard time at any level of sports. I have done just enough officiating over the years to know that it is a tough, thankless job, and that generally I’m not that good at it.

But I’m about to make an exception, and join in the cacophony of catcalls about the National Football League’s replacement refs.

For those of you who don’t really follow pro football — yes, there is football beyond Alabama and Auburn, just ask Julio Jones and Cam Newton — the NFL is in a labor dispute with its regular officials, and has used replacements culled from the small-college ranks to start the season.

Let’s be polite and say that the on-field results have been less the satisfactory, shall we?

Or we could express the boisterous, lengthy opinion of Baltimore Ravens fans, who chanted “Bull [bleep]!” for several minutes on the Sunday-night game with the New England Patriots — much to the great dismay of NBC producers, who could do nothing at all to cover up the infamous barnyard epithet.

And then there was Monday night. Lord, have mercy.

Green Bay was ahead of Kansas City 12-7, and the Chiefs had one last chance to pull off a Hail Mary pass to win the game.

Quarterback Russell Wilson heaved the ball into the end zone as the clock wound down to zero. By all appearances, Packer safety M.D. Jennings caught the ball with his body for a game-ending interception.

But somehow, Chiefs receiver Golden Tate wrestled the ball away, and the zebras ruled the play a touchdown. Even the video replay upheld the call. Kansas City wins, 14-12.

Yeah, right.

The Cheeseheads are in full uproar. I suspect last night’s edition of Packer fan Greta van Susteren’s show on Fox News (which aired after this column went to press) abandoned all politics and world affairs for an in-depth investigation of this travesty. Obama, Romney, Israel and Iran will have to wait.

Even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, best known nationally for his efforts to do away with collective bargaining for the state’s public employee unions, implored the NFL to resume negotiations with the real referees.

And I hope you didn’t go near Twitter unless you were prepared to see some rather profane comments directed toward the zebras, as well as Commissioner Roger Goodell. Facebook wasn’t much better.

It’s not just the pro refs who have issues. I’ve personally witnessed two situations at high school games this season, both at Fultondale and involving the same officiating crew from Blount County. In the first, the zebras took a down away from the Wildcats during a time out — it was third down going in, fourth coming out. Two weeks later, they gave visiting Woodland an extra down after a penalty — the sideline marker went from second down to first. But those refs are part-timers, and they’ll blow a call or two on occasion. It happens.

The NFL, however, is the big time, and pays its refs accordingly. It’s time for Goodell to bite the bullet and reach an agreement with the regulars.

After all, Foot Locker needs all of its employees back for the Christmas rush.

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