Up until this week, I thought competitions involving talented people trying to beat one another in something was about the people actually competing. But it’s not. It’s about the people who judge the people who compete. How else to explain that a music reality show makes its biggest headlines when they change judges, judges fight, or judges have bromances. Is J.Lo quitting “Idol” or not to have more free time? Movie studios desperate to put out mediocre rom-coms need to know.
Britney Spears gets $15 million for “X Factor.” They could have paid her ten grand — like she’s in the position to say “no” to something? Howard Stern debuts on “America’s Got Talent” and it’s like a comet strikes the earth, and I can’t go five clicks on the Internet without reading about how much Adam Levine and Blake Shelton like each other, and how they either love or can’t stand Christina Aguilera. Welcome to 2012, where it’s all about the judges. Oh, those pesky singers? Just window dressing.
Wait a minute. Maybe they’re onto something. Hang on, I’m an idea guy for Roger G. Maybe he’s got it all wrong. Yeah, the NFL can still play the games every Sunday, but turn most of the attention to the officials instead of the players and you might trend on every social network until the end of time (which is not this year due to that Mayan calendar flub). This is just me thinking out loud, but wouldn’t you be more interested in the NFL if these 10 things happened:
1. Instead of a coin toss, the visiting team sends out its strongest player to have a bench press contest with Ed Hochuli. Just lift 225 pounds as many times as you can. Think how great that would be going into overtime … “I tell you Osi Umenyiora is dog tired but he is going rep for rep with Hercules right now.”
2. If a broken play results in a touchdown, the top three officials sit down at a table and vote on whether or not there was enough style or verve to let it stand. “I’m sorry Cruz, but the defensive back fell down and I really wasn’t feeling the whole salsa thing. I felt like that’s all you do and I need something more at this point. I vote ‘no’ on the touchdown.”
3. The wacky, sports-talk radio morning show hosts from each team’s city get to be officials, like back judges. Desperate Dave and Mitch in the Morning would give away tickets in between quarters.
4. Celebrity officials for all nationally televised games. Seriously, wouldn’t you love to see George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson and Jack Black mulling over a pass interference call?
5. Every time there’s a replay, we get to hear the officials’ private thoughts on the game. “While I’m looking to see if Holmes was in bounds, my God, let me tell you how needy Mark Sanchez is in the huddle.” (Like THAT’s a stretch.)
6. Mike Carey officiates the Super Bowl every year. I have to put this in because my wife thinks he’s hot. Swear to God. I ask her what she likes about him and she says, “The way he points.” That, I have to agree with. Watch Mike Carey point. He makes you feel like the team who committed the penalty has done so in such an egregious manner that they should lose draft picks in addition to 10 yards.
7. Instead of having the referee explain the penalties, just have Charlie Sheen do it. “You want a holding penalty? Chuck Lorre is what’s ‘holding’ this team and this network back. You want a Torpedo of Truth? Don’t grab the other guy’s jersey where I can see it. What do you mean my 15 minutes of fame are up? I’m winning more than the Cowboys are in this game! Winning!” You wouldn’t understand what’s going on but it doesn’t matter.
8. Every Kardashian sister has to play umpire during a Ravens-Steelers game. You want to be a true reality star? Good luck.
9. For one random game a week, and no one knows this until kickoff, the normal officiating crew is replaced by the staff of a local Foot Locker.
10. This might be my favorite. Every week is “theme week.” Say for instance a game’s referee is a big “Caddyshack” fan. He gets to run a line from the movie every time he opens his mic. “We have offsides, number 74, defense. I guess you don’t want to wait for the snap, do you? I guess you don’t, I guess you don’t.”
Me personally, I’m holding out hope for the NFL’s version of “The Voice” — which would just be a half hour of different John Facenda tracking sessions for NFL Films. Now THAT I would watch.
Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com. He hosts NFL Fantasy Live during the regular season on the NFL Network, and you can download his weekly Cover Two podcast with Steve Wyche at NFL.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.