Sporty Spice: Replacement refs not popular in Buenos Aires

September 27, 2012

While I was very excited to study abroad in Argentina, I was apprehensive about missing out on American sports–specifically, I was petrified of missing the Sunday football games.  My father taught me at a young age to root for the New York Giants (and thus hate the Eagles), and I’ve been hooked ever since, either watching the weekend games live or using ESPN GameCast while I begrudgingly do homework in Lau.

My concerns were viable before I arrived here, but luck has me living in an apartment that is exactly one block away from Casabar, one of the few American sports bars in the city. The hidden entrance to this place makes it appear to be quiet and relaxed, and on the weekdays, it is. On Sundays, however, it transforms, with the help of the crazed Americans that always go to support their teams. A few Argentines come every Sunday as well, sometimes with their American friends and sometimes voluntarily. This intrigued me, as American football can be difficult to follow, and they informed me they became hooked after being introduced to it by a friend from the States. All of them self-taught the rules of the game, which shocked me, and some of them even have their own fantasy football teams.

While everyone gets into the classic sports bar arguments, all consisting of reasons why their team/quarterback/defensive line is the best and why yours is awful, there one thing that bonds us together: how terrible the replacement referees have been.

Since the NFL referee lockout, there have been numerous bad calls by the replacement referees. When I was procrastinating, I looked up where some of these men previously worked to get their qualifications, and quite a few have been fired from supervising some college conferences, such as the Pac-12. Even worse, some were denied from reffing the Lingerie Football League.

I admit that I surely am no professional, but I was shocked when I saw Wayne Elliot, the ref for the Packers vs. Seahawks game, point in the wrong direction to assign a penalty to Green Bay and help Seattle win.

I feel slightly bad for the new officials—they came into a bad situation and are ridiculed by fans, players, and coaches—and maybe the person that should be held more accountable is Commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing these people to make important “game-time” decisions.

Soccer has also had its fair share of bad referees. One man at Casabar, who was making fun of the new American football officials, told me the story of the Argentina-England quarterfinal in the FIFA World Cup of 1986. Although he was young when this World Cup occurred, he recounted what he claimed as “the best worst call in sports history,” as it was in Argentina’s favor and enabled them to continue playing and ultimately win the tournament.  At the beginning of the second half, when the score was 0-0, Argentine forward Diego Maradona accidentally scored a goal with his hands, and the refs did not call against it; not only did he score the first goal illegally, but also this mistake gave Argentina a 2-1 win over the English.

The 1986 Argentina soccer team was full of talent and could very well have won the World Cup without this call, but this “Hand of God” play really changed the pace of this specific match.

Initially I was not sure how to react to this story: this man was making fun of horrible referees and bad calls and then informs me about the handball that was made in Argentina’s favor. It made me realize that worse calls have been made in sports, that I should enjoy the temporary humor these replacement refs have provided me (unless it’s against the Giants), and continue hoping that Goodell and the previous NFL referees come to an agreement soon.

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