There's a way you can stop the Replacement Apocalypse before it gets any worse. There is something you can do that's free, that doesn't involve boycotting the games you waited six months to see, and can hit the NFL where it hurts. There is a way to take away the powerless feeling that has been gnawing at your innards for weeks/months/since midnight on Monday
But before we get to that, we must unpack just how bonkers the hours since Replacement Apocalypse have been. Here is what has been going on:
New Jersey Lawmakers Take Action. Seriously. A New Jersey state senator announced that he is drafting legislation that will ban replacement referees from officiating professional sporting events in the state. The new law will be packaged with a bill allowing motorists to offer two pints of blood as a cheaper alternative to their Turnpike toll (E-ZPass users can just dangle an open vein out a window) and another authorizing limited drilling in the Pine Barrens for styling mousse.
Other prominent New Jersey residents are getting involved. Coming soon: "The Ghost of M.D. Jennings," a Bruce Springsteen acoustic album full of mumbling, harmonica solos, and game attempts to rhyme "offensive pass interference" with "Cadillac." Rolling Stone will give it four stars and call it "provocative." No one else will listen to it.
The new law could prevent bodily harm to the replacements: The last labor dispute issue settled at the Meadowlands involved a burial in the end zone. The new law will not take effect by Sunday, so it will not do the Jets a bit of good against the 49ers.
The NFL on NPR. The midday host at Philadelphia's member-supported public radio station postponed his usual composting heavy patter with the traffic lady on Tuesday to talk a little pigskin. Here is a loose paraphrase of the discussion:
HOST: I know we don't talk about football, but did you see the Monday Night game?
TRAFFIC LADY: Um, no.
HOST: Well, I apologize to listeners who do not like football, but this is a human interest story, as well. There is some kind of labor dispute with the referees, so the league hired replacements, whose only experience is at lower levels of competition, like small, privately funded colleges.
TRAFFIC LADY: Just like the one you attended.
HOST: Precisely. Well, on the last play of the game, the quarterback for Seattle called a Hail Mary, which if you don't follow football or religion is a long, desperate pass with a name derived from a Roman Catholic prayer. A player from each team came down with the ball at the same time, and the Packers guy looked like he had it, but the referees called it a touchdown.
TRAFFIC LADY: Wow, I bet a lot of people are watching a clip of that play on the Internet!
HOST: And I know football fans -- and again, I apologize to our listeners -- were going crazy, because the call was inaccurate in their opinion. Well, in honor of that game we are going to play some songs by The Replacements! And after that, the new single from The Ghost of M.D. Jennings.
Lost in the confused efforts to explain football and frequent apologies to listeners too self-actualized and globally conscious to follow sports was a real source of terror: The NFL has become a public radio human interest story!
T.J. Lang is Trending. Lang is the Packers' left guard. If you ranked the most popular, influential players in the NFL by position, the left guards would come in dead last. (The punters have Chris Kluwe on their side.) If you ranked left guards by their popularity and influence, you would probably find Lang near the bottom of a sticky sludge of irrelevance.
But after Replacement Apocalypse, Lang tweeted a handful of cuss-laden remarks, with the poignant phrase "fine me and use the money to pay the refs" wedged among them. The "fine me" remark generated 84,000 retweets, making it one of the most shared comments in the illustrious history of Twitter. And that was before several articles pointed out that the tweet was so frequently retweeted, which no doubt generated both retweets of the original tweet and retweets of discussions about his retweets. Some of the retweets about Lang's retweets could join Lang's original tweet on the all-time retweets list!
I plan to tweet about this on Wednesday, and I encourage you to retweet me so we can get some healthy third-degree recursion going.
Lang now has more than 100,000 followers, but his Twitter output has been sparse since his initial tirade. He may be suffering from flop sweat, like a one-catchphrase comic desperately brainstorming a new gag. "'Use my signing bonus to pay the refs.' No, that is no good. 'Fine me and give the fans refunds.' Nah. I've got it: 'Woozle Wuzzle!'" Like 99 percent of his colleagues, Lang will eventually base his Twitter output around "rise 'n' grind" and some Bible verses.
But Lang set a bad example, one the CareerBliss bloggers at Business Insider quickly picked up on. "Lang might be able to afford shooting off tweets in anger. Chances are you can't," the employment advice site cautioned. "Twitter can be a very effective way to damage your reputation, miss out on opportunities and even lose a job -- all in just 140 characters."
This advice -- which is becoming the "Say No to Drugs" of the 2010s -- can be disregarded by the replacements, who post "Saintz Rooole" all over the social networks and still get assigned to Saints games.
If just one citizen keeps his job because he used Lang as a cautionary tale against rage tweeting, it will offset the hundreds of thousands of fans outraged and disillusioned by Replacement Apocalypse in no way whatsoever.
The NFL Has Become Big Brother and the Offensive Pass Interference Company. The NFL responded to Replacement Apocalypse on Tuesday with the kind of convoluted "official statement" you get when the bank loses your mortgage check, accuses you of fraud, threatens foreclosure, finds the check two weeks later, applies the lateness charge, forces you to fill out forms to void the lateness charge, then asks you to resubmit the check. You know, the statement that makes everything sound like your fault.
The gist of the statement: The play you saw did not really occur. Golden Tate had the ball cradled between his two muscular biceps and his rippling chest for the entire play. Also, Greedo always shot first.
Jerry Jones dodged the whole issue by claiming that he never saw the play. His smart phone is on the fritz. His cable is down. His glasses need a good Jerry Wipe. If you offer Jones your tablet to watch the play, he will throw it under the wheels of a passing semi. The Cowboys offensive line has been assigned to encircle Jones and block his views of the televisions when browsing at Best Buy. You almost have to admire a man whose willful ignorance is as durable as the vinyl siding plastic surgeons have installed along his cheekbones.
In the end, if the touchdowns Mike Hohensee threw against a bunch of insurance salesmen and dairy farmers in Eagles uniforms during the 1987 players strike are in the record books, there was no chance that Tate's touchdown would be overturned. There is one bastion of obliviousness where none of this matters, however: the world of fantasy football start-sit advice.
Tate is coming off an exciting 68-yard, two-touchdown game and is a definite start if your league rewards events that are so rare and mind-boggling that they provoke discussion on public radio.
Take a Sad Song, Make it Better. The official "explanation" got so many fans broiling mad that they want to make their displeasure known. I promised that there was something you can do. Here it is.
Go to the game. If you are a Chargers, Jaguars or Bengals fan, this involves purchasing a ticket and driving to the stadium. There are websites that teach you how to do these things. Anyway, once there, wait for the replacement officials to make an idiotic call or lapse into one of their marathon delays. When it happens, start singing:
Nah nah nah na-na-na-nah, na-na-na-nah, Hey Jude!
Beatles copyrights (held mostly by Paul McCartney and the estate of John Lennon) and publishing rights (held by Paul, Sony/ATV publishing, and possibly by one or two of Michael Jackson's former chimpanzees) are among the most closely guarded music rights in the world. "Hey Jude" is the most preciously protected song in the Beatles catalogue. Everyone knows it, and it is easy for a huge crowd to sing, as Paul himself proved when he led Olympic fans in a chorus of a song first recorded 15 years before their parents reached puberty.
If the crowd at an NFL game sings "Hey Jude," television networks will be stuck broadcasting "Hey Jude" without the rights-holders permission. The sound editors are pretty good at obscuring the B.S. chant, but that only takes a little bit of white noise. Try editing away one of the most recognizable melodies in the world on live television. The broadcast will sound like it is coming from Venus. But if the NFL doesn't drown out the singing, someone big and powerful is going to show up at league headquarters in a suing mood.
Faced with the choice of a battle against Big Music Publishing and the fourth most beloved human on earth (wedged between Ron Howard and … wow … T.J. Lang) or negotiating fairly with the referees, the NFL will be left with no choice. The lockout will end, thanks to you and the Cute Beatle.
I am no copyright lawyer, and there are probably holes in this master plan. But if the NFL can publish a mix of lies and obfuscations and call it an "explanation," then I can publish this and call it a "solution." I call it the Hey Jude Anti-Replacement Referee Massacree Movement, because we might as well get Arlo Guthrie's people riled up while we are at it.
It is worth a try. And if it fails, we all spend a Sunday singing "Hey Jude," which is better than the B.S. chant. Public radio hosts would consider it not just a football story, but a worthy human interest story as well.