Are Replacement Officials Detracting From Your Viewing Experience?

Are Replacement Officials Detracting From Your Viewing Experience?

As Enrico mentioned earlier, the referees for Monday night's contest between the Falcons and Broncos took a beating from the ESPN broadcast team, and they certainly weren't the first crew to lay waste to replacement officials. I didn't notice the NFL's own network had silenced their booth on the matter either, and even college football announcers have been taking shots. Heck, just listen to the soundbites or read the comments by players and coaches all over the league.

There have been massive blunders, and lately officials are losing control on the field, the scheduled action giving way to an increasing number of shoving matches after the whistle. Yet as bad a job as the replacements are doing, that's not even what I think is making many of these games borderline unwatchable so far. Actually, the staggering level of incompetence is almost humorous -- admittedly only until it comes back to bite the home team.

The true problem is the heavy amount of procedure involved with officiating football seems completely lost on the folks in the striped shirts, and many of these games are taking for-e-ver to play out. Practically every tilt feels like it's marred by delays as officials hold long conferences on the field, debating what the yellow flag was for and against whom, wildly guessing at where the ball is supposed to be spotted, and struggling to figure out when the clock is or isn't supposed to be running, followed by more conferencing with a pseudo-official on the sidelines, then a brawl breaks out because everybody is trying to turn this spectacle into a competitive advantage...

It's awful.

So far, both 1 o'clock Eagles games have run deep into the first quarter of the afternoon slate, several of which were actually pushed back 10 minutes to 4:25 for the first time this season. A big part of the problem against the Browns was there were so many clock stoppages from incomplete passes, numerous penalties, and other, but why did it happen again in Week 2? Brawls and official gaffes. I mean, the first half had two two-minute warnings!

Most fans will probably watch the Eagles no matter what, but what about the rest of the sideshow? It's a miracle the Monday night game didn't last four hours, as it was on pace to do so at the end of the first half -- I suppose we can thank both teams for running the ball quite a bit more in the second half (they must've been checking their watches, too). Add in the fact that it's 8:40 p.m. until they finally kick off, and it's a mess. Who wants to sit for that long and watch anything, let alone two teams they don't care about, and so late into the night for that matter?

It's not just a question of whether the officiating is detracting from your viewing experience as is posed above (it is), but will you continue tuning in to these other games at this rate? NFL ratings continue to soar, but because people genuinely enjoy watching the product. There was little enjoyment to be had watching on Monday night, which for the viewer at home with little or no stake in the outcome boiled down to a time-consuming exercise in tedium.

The reality that's being pushed by some in the media is the NFL doesn't care what the players and coaches think, and they don't care much more what you think, either. However, if ratings start to experience some measure of decline, the league might start to reconsider they lockout with the regular officials right quick. I know I personally am not quite prepared to send that message, but are you?

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”