The Substitutes

I caught a little bit of the Patriots – Ravens game tonight. The unnecessary shoving and slapping I witnessed in such a short time may actually rival that of the Jersey Shore crew. However, these football players didn’t require absurd amounts of alcohol to get hype…  JUST replacement refs.

I agree, the officiating has been just plain bad, and wildly inconsistent. The delays, poor calls, missed calls, and flat-out confusion that has occurred since the replacement refs were handed the reigns is frustrating. Clearly, “frustrating” is understatement for what it’s been for players and coaches. However, I’m pretty sure of one thing: there’s no excuse for the fighting and/or harassing and demeaning of these officials.

As I watched the game unfold, I couldn’t help but notice the mounting horror on the faces of these poor blokes. They are, after all, in charge of keeping order amongst very large men who have now resorted to physical violence against one another. Not good.

Then it struck me. I’ve dealt with this before. This is what I like to call, Substitute Hysteria. If you’ve ever had a substitute teacher, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Remember that stickler of a teacher you had, whose class you dreaded? Remember the joy you felt when you walked into his or her room and saw an unfamiliar face behind the desk? Yesssss, we’ve got a sub!

Whether you were a good kid (like me ;)), or the one that made that substitute hate their life for a solid 50 minutes, you’ve experienced Substitute Hysteria. There is a certain sort of madness or frenzy that can occur when a group of kids outnumber a naive and unsuspecting substitute teacher. Spit wads, slapping people (friends or enemies), and other random acts of craziness occur. Most of which would never happen if the “real” teacher was in.

That same hysteria has taken over what used to be an orderly classroom, headed by Ed Hochuli and his biceps. Unfortunately, Mr. Hochuli & Co will be absent for at least two more weeks even if a deal to end the lockout is reached soon. Meanwhile, these poor subs have completely lost control of their classroom.

Now it only takes a few bad “kids” to evoke madness in a classroom. Likewise, there are always a few unruly parents as well. Parents who think they know better than the teacher and think they can call the shots, rather than teaching their kids to be respectful.

I mention this because there are now two coaches, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who are reportedly being fined $20,000 each for publicly criticizing the replacement refs. Then there is Bill Belichick, who made the not-so-smooth move of grabbing a replacement official by the arm while running off the field tonight. Get your checkbook out, Bill. That’s gonna cost you, too. The point is, just like parents can make jerks out their kids, coaches can do the same to their players.

OR, they can be like good mommies and daddies and teach their kids that despite the second-hand officiating they’ve had thus far, they must still carry themselves with class and act like role models.

To wrap it up, I want to explain why I’ve been so empathetic to the replacements. have been a substitute teacher. You do the best with what you’ve been given, and hope that your students aren’t heathens. For those that are heathens, a little dodgeball to the head during gym class will shut them up rather quickly, or so I’ve heard. Whoops! 😉 For the replacement officials, your little yellow flag (when used correctly) should help you maintain order as well.

Bottom line is this: These players may not respect the current officials, but they still have to answer to their coaches. Coaches, be the example for your players. These replacements are doing the best with what they’ve got. Mr. Hochuli and crew will be back before you know it. Hopefully. 🙂

Poultry, Pigskin, and Good Ol’ Sibling Rivalry… Yes, Please!

Ah, Thanksgiving. A day for family and food. Toss in a competitive board game or a pick-up game of backyard football and you have all the makings of a great American holiday.

Oh, if it were only that simple. After catching up and reflecting on the year passed, the games begin… and out come the horns. Backyard football was never a favorite option among my family, my sisters in particular. We used to play Sequence, a strategic board-and-card game. Combating a relentless turkey hangover, we’d sit, and we’d battle. Dignity, pride and bragging rights on the line. Intense. Well, it was for us! But not compared to the Thanksgiving Day competition that one particular family has planned this year. Their backyard Turkey Bowl will include over 70,000 screaming fans, grown men chasing each other like hungry neanderthals, and a spot in the history books.

The subjects of this Turkey-Day extravaganza: John and Jim Harbaugh, the first brothers to be NFL head coaches. Sons of long-time college football coach, Jack Harbaugh, these two have continued the football bloodline. While John and Jim were growing up, the Harbaugh family moved 12 times as Jack took new coaching jobs. As you can imagine, the brothers grew very close. Of course with that statistic, they didn’t have much of a choice BUT to be friends! After high school both Harbaugh boys played college ball, John as a defensive back at Miami University (Ohio), and Jim as a quarterback at the University of Michigan. Jim continued playing in the NFL where his career spanned from 1987-2001.

With football resumes like that, the competition has probably been simmering between these two turkeys since their births (just one year and three months apart)! I should point out, I use the term “turkey” here with no disrespect :). I am certain, however, that both men have made each other better at both playing and coaching football throughout the years. John was very supportive of Jim’s decision to take the San Fran job. “He loves competing at the highest level, and the NFL’s the highest level of football. […] he’s built for the job and I think he’s the right guy for the job,” the eldest Harbaugh said of his brother earlier this year.

The other brothers who can closest relate to the Harbaughs’ situation today are Rex and Rob Ryan. Rex, the head coach of the New York Jets, and twin Rob, a defensive coordinator now with the Dallas Cowboys, tend to handle their sibling rivalry a little less gracefully. Basically, they (especially Rex) use press conferences to bicker with each other like two elementary-age girls who have unfortunately been given microphones. Their nit-picking knows no boundaries. Rex has even gone far enough to dress up as Rob for a press conference before the Jets took on Rob’s then-team, the Browns. Maybe that’s why Rob felt it acceptable to openly address Rex’s foot fetish with the media? Hard telling.

Fortunately, the Harbaughs have steered clear of the Ryan brothers’ path of mutual humiliation thus far. Of course, they haven’t played each other just yet. When asked of a face-off with Jim shortly after he was hired in January, John said, “It’ll be fun (to face each other). It’s not going to be new for us. We’ve been doing it for quite a long time. We shared the same bedroom for 18 years, so we’ve been wrestling around for quite a long time. It’ll be fun to get back at it in this way, whenever that comes up.”

Well, it’s finally come up. Jim’s squad made the three-time zone leap to Baltimore yesterday, which makes for a quick game-day turn around in this short week. Jim has this to say on the long trek to the east coast,”I definitely think it was very considerate of the NFL to reunite the brothers on Thanksgiving. I think that’s going to be very difficult for our team. There’s no question that we drew the short end of the straw on this one.”

Sibling translation: “NOT FAIR!” 😉

“Harbowl” aside, I’m loving this matchup. The Ravens are perched atop the AFC North with a 7-3 record, while the rookie, Harbaugh, has led his 49ers to a 9-1 tally. That’s impressive, as is. It’s even more impressive considering that they haven’t had a winning season in 8 years!

My guess is that this will be close and low-scoring. Both squads boast impressive defensive units, with the Ravens holding a slight edge. Turnovers will prove costly and I wouldn’t be surprised if this comes down to special teams play.

My pick? I’m going to go with Jim & the Niners!! While John has the coaching experience in the NFL, Jim has 15 years as a player, which definitely helps. Jim is a little more animated, and I love his energy and intensity. I think the 49ers will play with the same urgency shown by their coach. San Francisco gets the victory and evens up the head-to-head record with Baltimore at 2-2!

Another interesting tidbit to this story line is that Jim and John’s parents, Jack and Jackie, will mark their 50th wedding anniversary on Friday. How’s that for two major milestones in two days?! Not too shabby, Harbaugh Family!