What we can learn from the NFL referee fiasco...

So, I, like many, am a fan of professional football. That is not to say that I do not also appreciate college football (and I do think NFL is a better sport, which I will have to discuss some other time), but after this weekend's blown calls, I had to rethink my position.

I am going to make a quick analogy between Protestantism vs. Catholicism and football. Here it is, college football is like Protestantism, simply in as much as it is simply an attempt to 'play the game' at its best but coming up short. Where that analogy fails is the same place I want to focus my attention: the referees. There is no real difference between the NFL refs and college refs, at least until recently. By now anyone who watches NFL football knows that our favorite refs have been replaced [I miss you Ed Hochuli and your exploding biceps!].

There have been some pretty minor missed calls in previous games this year, but until last night, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. There was one major blown call in last night's Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. The call was so obvious in replay and affected the outcome of the game. To top it off, it took place in the last seconds of the game.

After listening to all the hubbub and rants since the game last night, I came to a certain insight. Referees are important to the game. Without them, the game would be nothing but bickering. The rules are there, we may not agree with all the rules, but they are there and we have to follow them if we want to play the game. This is what the refs give us. With the right refs we have certainty, clarity, and better game. Regardless of the rules, when a referee makes a call on the field, unless it is a reviewable call (which happens immediately) the call stands even if it is the wrong call. Even if it is reviewed, under certain circumstances the call cannot be overturned. In most circumstances the call on the field determines the outcome of the game. For this reason, it is all the more important to have good refs.

People get it. It does not take a genius to figure this out. So, when people complain about what we need, no says, "We need a different kind of ref." They say, "Give us our refs back." Similarly, when it comes to our Church, we recently went through a terrible turmoil with the sex-abuse scandal. In fact, the turmoil is still lingering. Faithful Catholics, in general, did not go running around screaming, "We need a new and different kind of priesthood." Many Catholics were so saddened and infuriated by the scandal that they left the Church. I doubt that the situation with the NFL is viewed as seriously as the priesthood, so I would not expect NFL fans to start flocking to college football or stop watching football altogether.

Rather, football fans have called for their old priests back. In the Church we have done something similar. We want the priests that we all remember. Many of us have been influenced in our lives by great priests. When we encounter an awful priest, we do not start demanding a new priesthood, but instead, we want priests like we used to have. We need refs/priests that are devoted to their occupation, who love the game but remain impartial. We need ref/priests who understand the rules, judge rightly and prudently, and enforce the rules. We need refs/priests who do no not give in to pressure. We need them to be well-trained and well-vetted.

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