Referees suck. That's a hard law of any major American professional sport, and it will be for the rest of time because hating referees is so remarkably easy. They don't play the game, and they don't have the God's eye view of a sporting event that you, Mr. Viewer At Home, have. They're old. They're schlubby. Ed Hochuli aside, you could maybe take them in a fight. That makes them easy to pick on, and the NFL seems determined to make it easier every year.
The challenge system was introduced to the NFL in 1999, and it remains the clumsiest possible implementation of instant replay ever devised. Consider how stupid the challenge system is:
• It penalizes you just for wanting to make sure a call is correct.
• It limits the number of replays that can take place before the two-minute warning in a game, which is dumb because the number of bad calls in one game isn't set in stone (and is potentially limitless in the hands of these shitass refs).
• You can only call for a replay by throwing a piece of fabric onto the field, and many times you have to point out to the ref that you threw the flag, which makes throwing the flag pointless to begin with. We have wireless technology in this country, you know.
• It takes the onus of consulting replay out of the hands of officials—whose only job is to enforce the rules of the game—and puts in the hands of a head coach who has four million other things to do and no optimal vantage point for what just happened on the field.
• It forces head coaches—in a minuscule time frame—to ask assistants upstairs if they should challenge the call. That timeframe to sort this out is not set in stone. Sometimes you have to burn a timeout to figure out if you need to challenge (a fireable offense to fans). Sometimes you bump up against the TV timeout and have ages to sort it out.
• Fans like me still have no idea what kind of video assistants can check out while they're in the booth. Do they have access to a live feed of the all-22 film? Can they only consult the network feed? What if the network decides to skip showing the replay in favor of running an ad for dick pills? The conditions for considering the red flag are NEVER consistent, which is crazy.
• It forces refs to consult a screen outside, in shitty viewing conditions (hood or not), while the home crowd waits for a call like it's a Cobb salad they ordered forty minutes ago.
• It takes forever.
And worst of all, it never dares reverse a subjective call like pass interference or forward progress. When Eric Weddle fumbled against Kansas City last week (and he did fumble), the play was deemed unreviewable because forward progress isn't a reviewable call. Here's my question: WHY? Why isn't that reviewable? You can look at the tape and see for yourself if Weddle fumbled while still moving forward and prior to the whistle blowing. And if it's not conclusive, then so be it. But it CAN be conclusive, or you can deem your subjective judgment to be wiser than that of the on-field ref, unless you're just too scared of undermining the authority of your referees.
And that's the problem right there. The NFL has introduced a whole slew of new rules and enforcements—enough to confuse any official—but can't be seen as undermining those very same officials by overturning a shitty judgment call. And the result is the plague of officiating inconsistency that everyone hates because no one knows what a defenseless receiver or a catch is anymore.
This is a fixable problem. You can piss and moan all you like about the game being pussified and that DURRRR MEN CAN'T BE MEN OUT ON THE FIELD ANYMORE DURRRR, but none of the NFL's new preventive measures would be anywhere near as infuriating if they were just CONSISTENT. And the way to do that is with the NHL's system of centralized replay, which the Ginger Hammer is already considering and which should be implemented TODAY. Here is how it would work:
1. A ref fucks up a call.
2. Someone in the New York DUNGEON OF MONITORS sees the fuckup and is like, "Hey, they fucked that up!"
3. New York quickly buzzes the refs with the correct call.
4. Call is corrected. We all move on with our lives.
No more challenges. No more head coaches walking around completely clueless as to what to do. In the Dallas/Philly game, Dallas got a delay of game penalty because fifteen seconds magically disappeared from the play clock. Al Michaels noticed this instantly, and yet no official did, which is crazy. Someone in New York could have reversed that penalty via TEXT.
What's more, you could have Replay Central in charge of overturning poor judgment calls like pass interference and late hits, so that there is one consistent authority on these ticky tack calls that many people think are ruining football. You can train ref crews all you like for this shit, but a central authority would ensure that these things don't become individualized like strike zones. The longer that centralized replay is around, refs will pick up on what should and should not be called, and hopefully the flags would end up being more balanced.
It needs to happen now, because the refs just cost Pittsburgh a playoff spot last week. That's a big fucking deal, and yet we all like football too much to quit over this. If we won't quit over suicidal retirees, we aren't quitting over shitty refs. We just want the game to be BETTER, so that we can remain at its mercy. Centralized replay will do that. Pro sports leagues have a strange habit of never firing bad officials (Jeff Triplette gets to work a playoff game this weekend!) because they seem to think that publicly reprimanding poor officials somehow undermines the public's faith in them, when we never had such faith to begin with. We need to make this better.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms. And during the playoffs, I pick the games because that's STRONG BUSINESS.
Eagles (-2.5) 24, Saints 23. Every quarterback in football has a "security blanket," which is always a tight end (preferably a white one) or a fullback (ditto) or a slot receiver (ditto). And every time the announcer uses the phrase, I imagine the QB as a five-year-old boy, desperately running over to Jason Witten so he can suck on his thumb and be pacified. And when the tight end gets injured? OMG NO SECURITY BLANKET OUR POOR LITTLE QB IS ALONE IN THE COLD WORLD.
Packers (+3) 35, Niners 34. If the Packers can't sell this game out, I don't ever want a hear a fucking word out of their fans again about how awesome they are. As a Minnesota fan, I can at least admit that I am a wishy-washy dipshit who can barely contain his indifference toward his own team. You assholes have a thoroughly heterosexual Aaron Rodgers back (don't show him Kaep's abs or he may turn!) and the chance to make Jim Harbaugh throw fecal matter at the refs. Fuck you if you can't sell out. And fuck your tundra. You have no excuse!*
(*Actually you have a great excuse because I'd never go to a playoff game that was below zero. That's crazy. A friend of mine went to the Pats-Titans night playoff game in the freezing cold ages ago and said they were chugging whiskey just to keep warm. He hated every minute of it.)
Chiefs (+2.5) 31, Colts 14. I'm gonna take a moment to remind you that, once again, the NFL failed to deliver any Saturday afternoon football in December this year. Do these people not understand that I'm home for the holidays and need something to stare at? THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, GOODELL? I don't get why they abandoned this and I never will.
Bengals (-7) 41, Chargers 10. I'll regret picking Marvin Lewis to win a playoff game. Oh well, onto the random crap:
• One of my favorite things in football is when a guy gets injured and is visibly PISSED that he got injured and can't play for the rest of the game, and then the announcer falls all over himself to praise the player for being mad that he got hurt. WHAT A COMPETITOR.
• My parents celebrated their 50th anniversary last week, and during their party they left open their old wedding albums for people to look through. They included photos and even a handful of press clippings in the local paper, and those were fascinating. One of the press clippings included a preview of a local debutante ball—those old parties where 18-year-old girls announce their availability to the area's most handsome and rugged bachelors—and the preview included both head shots of the debutantes AND foot shots. And that's not all: They actually evaluated the fucking feet of each girl. I took a picture for posterity:
Here is a bit of sample copy, and I swear this is real: "They are VIP kitchen feet, well versed in the route from stove to sink to refrigerator. And they are, finally and forever—even tho they are only 18 years old—Republican worker feet."
WHAT IN THE LIVING FUCK?! That is so weird. Even Rex Ryan thinks this is going overboard.
• I live in the DC area and Redskins fans could not talk enough about Kirk Cousins' trade value all season long. By the time RGIII was formally deactivated, they were convinced that they could get all the picks they traded for RGIII BACK for Cousins. And then Cousins went out and played exactly the way a fourth round quarterback usually plays. His trade value is now approximately that of a bag of wet potato chips.
But I promise you that there are still Skins fans out there convinced they can get a first rounder for him, and many more who are convinced the team should trade RGIII instead. WE NEED KIRK'S STEADY LEADERSHIP, YOU GUYS! He has Republican worker feet!
• Anytime a team like the Browns is on the verge of potentially hiring a failed retread like Josh McDaniels, defenders will always point to Bill Belichick's first job in Cleveland and use it as an example of a retread turning things around. But in general, Belichick is the exception. I can't even imagine how many teams have ruined themselves just randomly hoping they got the next Belichick when no such thing exists.
• On the sidelines against Green Bay, Jay Cutler wore a shell jacket that was roughly eight times the volume of his actual body. It was even weirder than seeing Eli Manning wear a t-shirt OVER HIS PADS after the Giants won their Super Bowls. They will just keep embiggening QB outerwear until you one day see Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines wearing a fucking circus tent.
• Speaking of Cutler, I still don't understand why media people pretend like a "seven-year deal" or a supposed $100 million deal is ironclad and report it that way right at the outset. Those contracts are ALWAYS misleading, and yet they always spew out the exact same horseshit that agents want them to spew out. Just say he signed a "new contract" and see where the out clauses are. Cutler's deal is really for three years, and I bet the Bears can waive Cutler next year anyway for a buyout of three dollars.
• It's January 2nd, and I don't know if you were aware, but the start of 2014 signifies LIGHT BULB ARMAGEDDON here in the United States. As of yesterday, manufacturers can no longer produce 40- or 60-watt incandescent light bulbs. They gotta make (GUHHHHHH) compact fluorescent bulbs, which are fucking awful. I promise you that the national suicide rate will increase 10% this year because of this. Fluorescent light makes every home feel like a toothpaste factory, and it's not worth keeping the Earth healthy to bask in it. I have already begun hoarding the old school bulbs, and I suggest you do likewise.
• I was at a hotel breakfast buffet with my kids and trying to corral them, but my one-year-old was still walking around, and one surly guy in a rumpled white t-shirt said to me, "Hey pal, this isn't your living room. I've had to walk around your kid four or five times!" And oh, you should have seen me react. Just the whitest, most gentrified look of shock you'll ever see. "Well, good morning to YOU!" That was my reply. I felt like a complete tool.
Ten minutes later, my other kid walks into the buffet and the same asshole is milling around. And when he walked by, I said, "I BROUGHT YOU ANOTHER ONE!" And this time, the guy really looked like he wanted to kill me. He got an inch away from me and was like, "Listen buddy, keep it to yourself." Then he walked away and I fled the buffet and never returned. I spent the next week alternating between thinking about killing him and thinking about him tracking me down and killing me. I'm never taking my kids to a buffet again.
None. Not enough games to fill out the ratings anymore. So very sad.
Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
"Submission for Liberty," by 4Arm, submitted by Frank:
I saw these guys open for Slayer in Columbus a few weeks ago. They only played a handful of songs and this was one of them. Good stuff.
It is! I need my thrash metal singers to actually SING. They don't have to sing much. They just have to sing enough so that I know they aren't just doing the whole Cookie Monster horseshit. 4Arm qualifies.
Suicide Pick Of The Week
Leitch's picks of Seattle, New England, Denver went 3-0 last week, making us 40-11 on the year, which means I lost you your suicide pool 11 times over, because you never win your suicide pool. The suicide pool is always won by the single DOUCHIEST guy in the office—the one guy who would actually believe that winning a suicide pool means he's some kind of football expert. It's like clockwork.
For posterity, I'll offer one last thing that makes me want to commit suicide, and that is a rogue toilet seat. Some toilet seats stay up when you put them up, they way a toilet seat should. But farrrr too many of them flop right back down while you piss, which is a profound nightmare. These rogue toilet seats and lids always choose the most alarming time to drop, usually just as you're leaving the shitter and are not ready for an oncoming poltergeist attack. Or even worse, the hinge is rusty and the lid of the toilet seat smashes your hand when you try to be a gentleman and put the seat down for a lady to follow. UNACCEPTABLE.
Gregg Easterbrook Is A Haughty Dipshit
I was on vacation last week—drinking fine Armagnac and studying many old nautical maps in my den—and so I missed Gregg's weekly bit of fartsniffing. Thankfully, the good folks at texashsfootball.com were there to rip apart Gregggggg's numerous theses about Texas high school football. HOOVER DAMNIEL! Anyway, I am back and notably refreshed from ATTENDING HOUSES OF WORSHIP and sending letters to the aliens about Jesus. Here now is your fisking:
TMQ's Authentic Games metric ends the regular season by predicting a Super Bowl of Denver (six authentic wins) versus New Orleans (five). Cincinnati also recorded five authentic wins; Arizona, Carolina, Indianapolis, San Francisco and Seattle posted four. Though my own metric predicts Denver versus New Orleans in the swamps of Jersey, that outcome seems unlikely
Here's my Authentic Wins metric! SIDE NOTE: I find it completely useless myself.
— my bet is the Broncos fade while a Saints-Seahawks playoff contest, if one occurs, would be held in Seattle, conferring the edge on the Bluish Men Group. So maybe my Authentic Games metric is nuts.
Then why are you fucking talking about it? Hey, gang! I have devised a scientifically precious ELITE WINS stat that could change the face of football forever, except that I don't like the fact that it predicts the STATSAPALOOZA score-runner-uppers of Denver in the Super Bowl, so I'd like to publicly disown it now. I just wanted to take you through my thought exercises in football, which have great value to mankind!
But last season at this juncture, it projected Baltimore to reach the Super Bowl, and that seemed pretty unlikely.
So if my Authentic Wins stat turns out to be right, I AM LORD GENIUS FOOTBALL GOD OF THE NFL PARISH.
Nick Foles, who started the season as a backup, finished with 27 touchdown passes versus two interceptions, and a 119.2 rating. Joe Flacco, who started the season as reigning Super Bowl MVP, finished with 19 touchdown passes versus 22 interceptions, and a 73.1 rating.
The lesson? NEVER START A SUPER BOWL MVP. Backups are hungrier!
Discounting the kicking teams, here are the Pro Bowl players who were undrafted:
• Martin Luther
• Saint Peter
• The soldiers at Thermopylae
• Taylor Hicks
The new Fox series "Almost Human" posits that in the year 2048, cyborg cops will be required because, as a voiceover intones in the pilot, "crime has increased an astounding 400 percent." Four hundred percent compared to what — to 2013, to 2047? Thirty-five years in the future, people still don't understand statistics.
So true. Are these Authentic Crimes? TMQ's crime metric may be KRAYZEE, but it's a damn sight better than whatever stat some Jew FOX TV executive will cook up!
TMQ's sixth sense tells him the Blur Offense fades in this contest and that New Orleans will advance to a monster NFC playoff confrontation at Seattle. But my sixth sense also told me Sarah Palin would help the 2008 Republican ticket.
Is it really a sixth sense if it doesn't actually do anything? WHOA HEY TMQ'S SIXTH SENSE SAYS TOASTERS ARE FAR TOO GUSSIED UP BY MANUFACTURERS NOW. But that sixth sense could mean absolutely nothing! MAYBE.
Manti Te'o quietly had a solid rookie campaign for San Diego (expect the national media this week to rediscover his imaginary dead girlfriend).
YOU are the national media. Don't try to paint yourself as some wily outsider who sees things the rest of DOUCHESTREAM MEDIA can't, Greggggg. You work for the Atlantic and ESPN. You're not operating a pirate radio ship.
September through Christmas is my favorite time of year — leaves are falling, football is being played, Christmas is coming, and everyone looks better in sweaters.
EXCEPT CHEERBABES GOD I WANT THEM NAKED AND FREEZING SO THE FOOTBALL GODS CAN PAINT THEIR CLEAVAGE WITH CUMMY SNOW.
No one is sorry to see weasel coach Greg Schiano fired.
Weeeeeaselllllllll. Although, as feudal affectations dictate, I hope his players all called him "Mister."
The Football Gods Were Puzzled:
"Do we chortle here or not?"
Why was Drew Brees, and the rest of the Saints' starters, on the field in the fourth quarter with New Orleans ahead 42-17? Saints coach Sean Payton has always loved stats. But trying to run up the score isn't sportsmanlike, and can cause pointless injuries.
Oh, you can SMELL the moral high ground here, can't you? Nothing's more fun than when Greggggg asks a question as a way of passive aggressively noting his disapproval. Not an Authentic Win! The Football Gods will have their revenge.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Anonymous has a story I call HOUSE OF SHARTS:
A little more than 10 years ago I was doing an internship with a United States Congressman on Capitol Hill. After a long night of drinking I went into work not feeling so great. While I was at my desk answering constituent mail, I felt that horrible rumble in my stomach. As I was squirming in my seat, the staff assistant in the office asked me to go up to the storage locker and bring back a box of paper. All the offices have storage cages on the top floor of the office buildings to keep their extra supplies. As I was getting the box of paper, I felt the pressure building up like a volcano. I looked around and noticed nobody was around so I decided to try and let a little pressure out.
At that very moment, I realized I had made a very grave mistake. What felt like a fart, was nothing but liquid shit. My body went cold as soon as I noticed I was wearing khaki pants. I locked the storage locker and swiftly walked, cheeks clenched to the nearest bathroom. The devastation was massive. In a panic, I tried to clean up what I could, but there was no salvaging, the damage was done. I ditched my underwear and went back to the office walking with my back to any wall I could find. My senses dull, I was unsure how bad the smell was. W
hen I went back to the office the staff assistant could tell I had a look of horror on my face. He asked where the paper was. I told him I had suddenly felt very ill and needed to leave. With a puzzled look, he asked me if I wanted to go down to the capitol nurse to which I replied, "I need to leave right now, I'm sorry." I grabbed my bag and slung it over my shoulder and over my ass and high tailed out of there the fastest I could. I spent the next 45 minutes on the metro riding back to Ballston where I was living with my back up against the doors afraid to sit down and convinced I smelled like the homeless people everyone is always trying to avoid on the train. The next day I went in with that horrible feeling of whether anybody knew what had happened. No one ever said anything and neither did I. So my question is, in the more than 200 year history of the United States Capitol, I can't be the only one to have ever sharted themselves, right?
Emmitt Smith's Lock of the Week!
"For the Wild Car round, I like Drew Breens and the high-powdered Saints (+2.5) offense to go into Philly and DECAPACITATE the Eagles! There's a lot I like about Nick Phones and the Blurb Offense. But this is the playoffs! ONE AND DUNG! WIN OR GO HOLE! And for that reason, I have to go with Breens. He's excellenced. He's got sassy. Not to mention MAXIE! I trust him in the hostage environment of the Limp. When playoff time comes, you re-guy on your veterinarians."
Emmitt Smith 2013 record: 6-9-2
Fantasy Player Who Deserves to Die A Slow, Painful Death
Me. As always, I deserve the honor at the end of the season because I have played this game for two decades and never once won a league. Never. It's pathetic. Fantasy football is just a suicide pool with more busywork. Sitting there on a Sunday night, trolling the waiver wire hoping to pick up someone that some other asshole already picked up—what is the goddamn point? I'm done with it for good.*
(*Not a fucking chance I'm done with it. I'll play until I'm cold and dead in the grave. One day, I'll stumble backwards into a title. YOU WATCH.)
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we'll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year's end or sooner. And now, your updated 2013 chopping block:
- Gary Kubiak—FIRED!
- Mike Shanahan—FIRED!
- Leslie Frazier—FIRED!
- Jim Schwartz—FIRED!
- Greg Schiano—FIRED!
- Rob Chudzinski—OMG FIRED!
- Rex Ryan—NOT FIRED!
- Joe Philbin—NOT FIRED YET!
- Mike Munchak—NOT FIRED YET SOMEHOW!
- Dennis Allen—ALSO NOT FIRED YET SOMEHOW!
I didn't have Chud on this list at all this season because I figured, like everyone else, that he got a one-year grace period while the Browns got their house in order. He must have done something REALLY bad, like participated in a three-way with Andrew Bynum and that one assistant Cavs coach's old lady or something. When a coach gets shitcanned, you usually get a flood of anonymous player quotes ripping the fucker as he walks out the door. "He was a dictator." "He didn't know what he was doing." "He put pictures of Hitler into the game plan to motivate us." Stuff like that. Chud got none of that. His players seemed to think he was all right. Something is seriously fucked up in Cleveland.
Gametime Snack Of The Week
Sriracha popcorn! I think people, in general, like the idea of liking Sriracha more than they actually like Sriracha. Like, it's fine. I like putting it on food. And this popcorn is quite tasty. But people wax rhapsodic over this shit like it's liquefied bacon. Relax. It's hot sauce. IT IS NOT PROPERLY RATED RIGHT NOW.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Mucho Aloha! The beer for people that think Hawaiian is Spanish! From Chris:
My wife and I were in Hawaii on vacation and I was getting tired of shelling out $14 for sugary drinks to get precious, precious alcohol. So off to the supermarket we went. I saw this gem and had to get it. The lady behind the register took one look at it and felt she needed to clarify that this was not a local beer. She looked as if this beer brought shame upon the entire state of Hawaii. I got it anyway. Upon closer examination, it turns out this beer is from Wisconsin. So it's a beer from Wisconsin, sold in Hawaii, and marketed for some reason using Spanish. La cervesa mo' bettah. Mo' bettah than what, you might ask? Not much. I toasted all six to Pele.
And what does the bird signify? I'm so confused by this beer. LUAU FIESTA! At least it doesn't come in a carton. By the way, reader Russell sent an extra bit of info on Chibuku, the carton beer from two weeks ago...
I lived in Botswana for a while, and they have a huge plant that produces the stuff. Brought back memories. What you didn't hear is that this stuff has a shelf life of minutes, and when it goes bad, they return it to the plant for disposal. I toured the plant once, and they took us to the pit that they dump the spoiled stuff in. I can't explain to you how horrid the smell was. Imagine someone drinking a bunch of booze, sour milk and burnt hair, then puking it out onto your carpet.
I think that we have now proven that Chibuku is, hands down, the single worst beer ever made. It's no contest. I defy you to find a worse beer. Mucho aloha to you if you can.
Robert Evans's MVP Watch!
Time to start thinking about who the leaders will be for the NFL's MVP award. So every week, legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans will join us to give us his assessment. Take it away, Mr. Evans.
"Baby, my favorite for NFL MVP is Peyton Manning of the Broncos! Another fine holiday season at Woodland. Naked tennis? YOU BET! A forty-eight hour bed-in? A HOLY TRADITION. Every year I give my closest friends a gold watch, and every year I wrap that watch in the anus of a 20-year-old woman. You've never seen Nicholson open his presents so quickly. Usually, he throws the watch away."
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Texans Fans
American Hustle, which is great and features attractive actresses at their most attractive (plus Louis CK getting his ass kicked!). But this is the third David O. Russell movie I've seen in a row where people spend most of the movie screaming at one another. Everyone screams in The Fighter. Everyone REALLY screams in Silver Linings Playbook. And everyone screams here. Like Russell took his shitfit with Lily Tomlin and made seven hours of film footage out of it. I dare that guy to make All Is Lost 2.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
"This just in. A fistfight is in progress in downtown Springfield. Early reports indicate, and this is very preliminary, that one of the fighters is a giant lizard."
Enjoy the playoffs, everyone.
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin and Gawker. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also buy Drew's book, Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.
Image by Sam Woolley/Photo via Getty