When the Bears take the field Monday, they will do so under the watchful eye of the NFL's "regular" referees, who will lift the shroud of incompetence that has covered the league for three weeks, culminating in the phantom touchdown awarded to Seattle receiver Golden Tate on Sept. 24.
Time has done little to soothe the controversy. Soon after the game, members of both teams began tweeting, the Packers desperate and betrayed, the Seahawks unapologetically jubilant. I understood the Packers' dismay, but I was rubbed wrong by Seattle's sense of accomplishment.
The Bears' postgame tweets seemed to agree with me, and when I followed up with a few players, indeed, most expressed surprise by the call.
So most Bears agree with most viewers: the refs blew it. And yet according to players, winning on a blown call is the same as winning on an opponent's dropped pass. Wins are hard to come by, they told me—they'll take 'em any way they can.
Meanwhile, for all the talk about how the replacement refs affected player safety, many Bears admitted to taking advantage of the replacement officials' lack of experience.
Gabe Carimi said he was "probably holding a bit more."
Jay Cutler said, "With those refs, you can help them throw flags."
Anthony Walters said that last year, "Holding was holding. Cut blocks were cut blocks." And this year? "Sometimes … you see a guy get fined and there wasn't even a flag on the play."
Now of course everyone is happy to have the regular refs back. But we should realize players view officials as part of the scenery, like the weather or loud end zone fans or anything else that must be worked around. Refs are human, and hence can be yelled at; but they are also unassailable, and hence cannot be changed.
And while officiating for the rest of the 2012 season should go more smoothly, if players increase their respect for the regular refs, it's not in deference to "authority" or "order," but merely an act of self-preservation.
After all, take a look at Tate's statement that, yes, he pushed Green Bay's Sam Shields to create space for his "catch," but no, "I'm not a cheater." How can that be?
As Walters reminded me: "It's not a penalty unless they call it."
So the next time the refs let you down, just remember that their mistakes are part of the game. You wouldn't spend time angrily Tweeting about the weather, would you?
Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @readjack.
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