Jon's NFL Mailbag: The officials sure are trying their hardest

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

These replacement refs are doing things that human beings were not designed to do. Players are our friends. Packers fans are furious. Here, Jon addresses these points and fields questions from his imaginary friends.

Hi, friends! Welcome to my second-ever NFL mailbag. You didn't send in any questions, and boy did I not even ask for them at all! That's because I totally just made up my own questions to answer. More softballs that way.

Today I'd like to talk about Monday night's officiating adventure, Darrius Heyward-Bey's terrifying injury, Jamaal Charles' 91-yard run, and Peyton Manning.


- Benderson A., Fudge, Kentucky

That, I think, is the neglected angle in this NFL officials saga. It was -- wait, OK, first, are you caught up from last night, friend? Did you see what is one of the wrongest game-ending calls I have ever seen in a sporting event? Did you see how spittin' mad NFL players were on Twitter? Because it was really something.


You know who they awarded possession to? THE DUDE IN THE BLUE UNIFORM! That call directly gave the Seahawks the win in front of a massive primetime audience against a team with one of the largest fan bases in the NFL. WELP.

I'd like to address an angle of this story that I don't think people are talking about as much (and understandably so): how do these replacement refs feel? It's true that they're grown-ass folk who took this job with the knowledge that NFL officials are hated, and that they'd probably mess up some calls, and that this would make them more hated. It's also true, I think, that this business is not, uh ... healthy.

Is there an evolutionary trait that prepares a human being to stand in the middle of 65,000 people and get screamed at? No! There probably weren't many more than 65,000 people in the dang world when our DNA was being constructed! We humans have entered an advanced social and technological stage that is a lot of things. For one, it's unbelievably weird, and it's a process of trial and error.

So we can use our cell phones to pound 1,500 mHz radio waves through our bodies and we won't die? OK, good deal. We can't huff asbestos, huh? Drag. The ability to dress like a zebra and stand in front of a legion of easily-upset people and tell them things they don't want to hear is somewhere in the middle, I reckon. Sometimes we can't do it. Last night, they couldn't do it, and the crowd was told what it wanted to hear.

It must feel unbelievably odd. We're talking about these officials all day today. They have disappeared into the hotels and airports. They're sitting at Gate C17 right now, half-reading the SkyMall catalog they jacked from the connecting flight, and half-consumed by their enormous ****-up, and no one recognizes them. I'm happy for that. I'd rather they not feel sad.

That's what matters, right? Whether folks feel happy or sad?

hi yes are there any jokes about peyton manning

- Paulter G., Fudge, Kentucky

You know what I've seen lately? Like, not all the time, but a few times? "GAYton Manning." I've seen it at least three times in the last week in message boards, on Twitter, etc.

Referring to Peyton Manning as "GAYton Manning" tells us three things about you:

  • You're either a pledged hatebot or a full-bird colonel in the "no offense to gay people" army.
  • You have somehow developed strong opinions about Peyton Manning, a personality so vanilla that developing strong opinions of the man seems impossible.
  • Nobody with a sizable audience would say something like that, because that sort of person is not the sort of person who tends to get listened to. WHICH MEANS: you didn't hear this elsewhere. You came up with it yourself.
  • WHICH ALSO MEANS: you're probably proud of it and you repeat it a lot.

Man, that's the interview I want. I want to sit down and talk with the sort of individual who would say "GAYton Manning" out loud. I'm picturing, like, a dude in unreasonably expensive Air Jordans, and gym shorts with one of the pockets pulled out that reveals rodent bites from the time he left beef jerky in the pocket before changing into his "afternoon pajamas" (which are just pajamas), and a chain wallet clipped to said gym shorts, and a shirt that says SEX PATROL or some shit (and the shirt is collared!), and we get to the top and you're wearing an upside-down, dented, rusted metal pail over your head and you're banging it with a xylophone mallet and you're trying to play the song you heard from the local optometrist's commercial, but you're having trouble because you have one note and not three.

do you think that jamaal charles is fast

- Meggory N., Fudge, Kentucky

What an excellent question! I do believe that he's very fast, yes, and his 91-yard touchdown run against the Saints Sunday was pretty damn enjoyable.

Over the last couple decades, the Chiefs have been blessed with fun-as-Hell running backs. Christian Okoye was just GIANT MAN HAS FOOTBALL, MOWS YOU DOWN. Marcus Allen was a superstar. Priest Holmes was implausibly nimble. Larry Johnson took the ball 4,000 times per game and made defensive backfields pull double-duty.

And now they have Jamaal Charles, who is fast as all get-out. He evaded one leg tackle as he passed scrimmage, but apart from that? No jukes, no stiff-arms, no anything. Nothing but speed. It was like a speed run in a video game. He didn't return the colonel's locket to his grateful widow or complete any of those other secondary objectives, but that was hardly the point here.

So, Darrius Heyward-Bey's hit was pretty scary.

- Hemnry R, Fudge, Kentucky

This is the thing about professional athletes: I will never have a closer relationship with someone I will never meet. Musicians play the songs they have played 3,000 times. Actors ... act. Even in a dynamic setting such as a debate, we do not witness politicians as they imagine their platforms and execute their ideas; they're simply expressing something they decided a month or year or decade ago.

This, I think, is the answer to those who regard sports as trivial and pointless exercise: its athletes are living their lives, experiencing actual hardship and uncertainty, and we can watch from a thousand miles away. I can't think of any other system that offers this, and I think that developing relationships with these athletes, however one-sided, are inevitable.

"Friend" isn't the right word, because friends know each other, but it's close enough to what I'm trying to say. Sunday, a friend took a helmet to the chin, fell limp, and collapsed to the ground, where he remained for minutes upon minutes.


Darrius Heyward-Bey wasn't moving, and the surrounding gaggle of polo-shirted men of nebulous job descriptions wasn't moving him, either. My heart fell into my stomach. It was horrible. "This is horrible," said someone else in the room. "It's like, whenever I see this stuff, I have to wonder, what am I watching? Am I supposed to feel okay about this?"

A perfectly reasonable question, but my concerns were far more base. He's hurt. How badly? God, is he going to walk again? Why is this taking so long? What terrifying dangers are at play here? This "friend" of ours, he may have just been broken, and in this weird fit of meta-struckness I was struck by how struck I was by this moment. If it's bad, I don't know what I'm going to do.

They lifted Heyward-Bey to the gurney and he raised a fist. He is now out of the hospital and expected to make a full recovery. Thank. God.

do folks have opinions about football

- Gramantha S., Fudge, Kentucky

Generally speaking, no. Most football fans just stare slack-jawed at NFL games and their oatmeal glops out of their mouths and spills all over their custom jerseys that read "FOOTBALL TEAM/PLAYER" on the back. Last night was an exception, however. Let's check in at our Packers blog, Acme Packing Company, and see how Green Bay fans reacted to Monday night's formalities.

My 10 favorite comments, in order:


OH MY ****ING GOD. **** THIS.


If I were the Packers I would boycott the rest of the season.

**** Goodell.

**** the NFL.

This is a joke.





Volleyball set that ****ing ball into the stands behind the endzone, none of this matters.


I love how one ref came in and was like "seriously?"

And they still called it.


These refs better be in Jail tomorrow! Who killed Kennedy? These idiots!


This is one of those 9-11 types of moments

where tragedy is so big it unites enemies together against the greater evil.

Just on a sports level instead of real life calamity and widespread death.


**** Pete Carole


A man took one of the best things in the world, NFL football and literally took a shit on it.


Refs are dorks

Good show, friends. Until next week!

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