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Chris Graham: ‘The ref didn’t see it’

My grandfather, God rest his soul, couldn’t get over how dumb the refs in the wrestling ring were.

“You know there’s no way this is on the up-and-up. There’s no way they’re that dumb,” he’d yell at the TV on Saturday nights, alternating with, “What are you? Blind! I’m never watching this stuff again.”

He’d turn it back on the next Saturday night, and sit on the front row at the Expo when the circus came through town three or four times a year.

Now I work in wrestling as a promoter, and among our goals in putting together a live event or TV extravaganza is getting fans just as mad the dumb, blind refs as my granddaddy always was.

In that, I envy the NFL, which doesn’t have to pay people to script its dumb, blind refs. No, those skills come as part of the overall package anymore.

Which isn’t to say that we’d always thought that the real refs weren’t all dumb, blind and otherwise incapable of keeping up with what was going on in front of them. Ref-baiting is part of the fan experience as much as root, root, root-ing for the home team and having a hot dog and a beer.

Now, of course, we who keep up with the NFL realize that we’d had it so, so good before.

As a wrestling promoter and writer, I’ve always assumed that we were far overstretching the bounds of credulity when we’d have our refs miss obvious cheating and then argue that despite the availability of instant replay we couldn’t reverse official decisions because “the ref didn’t see it.”

Now “the ref didn’t see it” is part of the NFL’s lexicon. Seattle wideout Golden Tate blatantly pushed off on the game-winning Hail Mary? Well, OK, but the ref didn’t see it. Tate didn’t have possession of the ball before falling to the ground? Too bad. The ref didn’t see it.

Instant replay makes it obvious that Seattle shouldn’t be awarded a reception and touchdown? But you see, the ref didn’t see it, and if the ref didn’t see it, which he didn’t, then even an obvious instant replay can’t reverse it.

Got it. The bad guy hit the good guy with a folding chair, grabbed his tights, used the ropes for leverage and scored a quick 1-2-3, and the decision stands because, repeat after me, the ref didn’t see it.

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