Now I don’t have a dog in this fight cuz I hate football with a passion, but I have to admit it’s been amusing as an outsider to watch you fans of the game over the past few weeks with your little soap opera about the “official” referees going on strike cuz the NFL suits were being all greedy and obstinate. The whining refs went on strike cuz they weren’t getting what they wanted. Boo hoo. The NFL suits responded the way most suits do: they got scabs. They dragged in replacement referees from colleges and high schools to get the job done and be treated like shit by the fans.

Maybe you think these semi-pro or whatever-you-call-them referee guys shouldn’t have accepted the job. They coulda said no, but the NFL woulda just gone down the line until they found referees who would say yes, and everyone has a price. It is frankly the opportunity of a lifetime for anyone who is a referee of any sort. If you love football, you would not have passed this opportunity up.

Now imagine you’re one of those replacement ref guys toiling in “the minor leagues” or whatever football fans call it. Your motives for being a referee are myriad and yet simple. Maybe you want to someday ref a professional game, or maybe you just enjoy the level of sport you are at currently. Maybe the pay is good. Maybe it’s terrible but there’s other benefits. Maybe you were gonna watch the games anyway so you might as well get paid. Ultimately it comes down to this: You love football.

You preside over high schools and colleges and you ply the trade of being a referee. You’re good enough to get noticed and when some NFL suits come down and offer you a job you probably don’t have to think about it all that long. Sure, the politics behind the reasons why are probably not completely lost to you, but this is the big time. Even if you do realize you’ll be a scab and virtually crossing picket lines to get to your job, this may be the only chance you’ll ever get to actually preside over a real professional game. You’d be an idiot to pass this up. Decades from now you’ll be telling your grandchildren about it.

In a recent interview, Mike Peek, one of the replacement refs who happens to be from my home state of Texas, put it this way: “I’m a down home kinda guy. My philosophy on this is that we were hired to be fired. It was a great ride, but I know all rides come to an end.” So the writing was on the wall. This wasn’t a permanent gig. Maybe some of them hoped that this was their chance to prove themselves and even if the official refs came back, somehow some or all the replacement refs would be welcomed with open arms. You know and I know that was never gonna happen, but maybe some of the replacement refs were hopeful. Maybe they didn’t all want the ride to end. These guys did their job better than one should have expected. They presided over several games in their brief time in the worldwide spotlight, and got several plays (in fact hundreds) correct.

However, they only had to screw up once, didn’t they?

You. The fan of football. You only needed them to fail one time.

That’s all you were waiting for. Wasn’t it?

Cuz the fairy tale story of this sordid little soap opera had already been written. The official referees were the good guys, right? I mean, they only wanted what was fair and equitable, and the evil mean old NFL suits in their lofty perch up in the VIP booths were being greedy and selfish and oh they have all that money why should they deny the original official refs what they wanted? If the replacement refs could fail, then it would prove that the official refs were right. Not just anyone can do this job. It takes a special breed of official referee to do it right, and you get what you pay for. The NFL suits were ruining the game by denying the “official” refs their rightful wages and benefits. And if the replacement refs could just screw up once, that’d be proof enough to make sure the side you were rooting for would get a happy ending.

I told you that fairy tale to tell you this one.

On September 11th of this year there was an attack on a US Consulate in Benghazi Libya which took four lives and started an uproar which is still being felt. It may or may not have been premeditated, depending on who you ask and when. This isn’t the fairy tale part by the way. This part is very real, and I do have a dog in this fight. The fairy tales start when people try to piece together what happened without all the pieces of the puzzle. Immediately after the event, the presumption on the part of the Obama administration and elsewhere was that this attack was an extension of uprisings by upset Muslims regarding an anti-Islam video produced haphazardly by an American filmmaker and broadcast in the Middle East as well as made available online via YouTube and other places. However, that was a knee-jerk assumption prior to any investigation, based on what was known immediately after it happened.

As the days have worn on into weeks, upon closer inspection of the consulate itself and other evidence gathering, it turns out these “rioters” used rocket propelled grenades and mortars to break into the embassy. It also turns out many of the men involved in the “rioting” inside the consulate have ties to Al Quaeda or other “terrorist” organizations. Consulates and embassies aren’t exactly like a corner store grocers or a pawn shop. You can’t just throw a bike through the window and amble in. One would imagine it takes planning. There’s also the political turmoil involved in having described the events so rashly. Now that Obama’s administration has described the attack on the consulate as just some rash side effect of a riot, it sounds like anyone at any time coulda thrown a bike through the window and grabbed a TV set from inside the consulate. So upon further reflection, it turns into a terrorist attack, whether it actually was one or not.

How about this for a fairy tale? Imagine you’re one of those extremist guys with ties to “terrorist” organizations and you’re sitting around with your buddies at a bar discussing whatever alleged terrorists talk about on their day off while having drinks. You’re watching CNN and learn that a new anti-muslim video got released from The Great Satan over in The West and this time other extremist muslims and even some ordinary muslims are taking to the streets about it. You guys are sitting around and its your day off and you get to thinking.

“Abdul?” you say across the bar, “Don’t we still have that stash of rocket launchers from that attack we were gonna do three weeks ago but it didn’t work out?”

“Yeah.”

“And Sayid, didn’t you say you were borrowing your brother’s van for the week?”

“Sure.”

That US consulate down the street was a low level target but it’s going to be an area where these demonstrations will happen anyway. It always is. All the pieces are in place. Your bosses probably wouldn’t mind you rolling it over. You don’t even have to call this in. Too much paperwork anyway.

“Why don’t we just roll that consulate building down the street there?”

The others look about the room at each other and start smiling. Sounds like a fun way to spend the next couple of days. It was either this or watch more CNN while drinking, waiting for your bosses to tell you the next target. If they even have ‘bosses’ like we do.. I’m being facetious.

I’m also suggesting this was a little of both. Maybe they hadn’t planned attacking the consulate months in advance. It happened to be the anniversary of Nine Eleven so that lends credence to the planning theory, but they couldn’t have planned the rioting, and the consulate was really not a high level target. It served no purpose other than to, well, of course, terrorize people.

They were waiting for a chance for us to screw up. They were looking for an opportunity. Cuz I don’t think America realizes this, but Abrahamic belief systems like Islam have been around for a very long time. Thousands of years. This idea of democracy? It’s a social experiment. It’s not in the bible or the quran. It’s comparatively new. Only a few hundred years old give or take. This idea that it’s not good to overthrow your enemies and then make them your slaves, is relatively new. The thought that everyone has the right to live free and happy, that every single individual, including your enemy, has some basic right to exist… This is new, and it’s not godly. If you actually read your bible, you’ll see that most of it’s about pillaging and raping your enemies. Most of it is about you convincing yourself your god wants you to beat those other guys. You can interpret the New Testament to convince yourself that Jesus was an early republicrat, but he had a very strong Us vs Them mentality too. We didn’t get the idea of democracy from Judeo-Christian or Islamic belief systems.

And these guys with the rocket launchers and mortars and car bombs think encouraging democracy and equality in people is a failed experiment, and they are just waiting for one bad play to be called. So they can prove themselves right. In case you haven’t figured this out yet, to abrahamic zealots who believe in an ageless god that’s always on their side no matter what they do, and follow unfounded inhumane dogma that’s thousands of years old: We are the replacement refs. So the next time the NFL and the referees disagree and replacement refs are called in, show some respect.

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