There is a pro football commissioner who's unafraid to blow the whistle on underperforming refs.
There is a head of an American football league who has fired an officiating crew because he felt the integrity of his sport was at stake.
There is a pigskin boss who was willing to bite the bullet and admit he made a mistake.
His name is Mitch Mortaza. He is the commissioner of the Lingerie Football League. And he feels the NFL has lowered its standards.
Mortaza was surprised to learn a referee he says he dismissed for poor performance, Craig Ochoa, had been picked up by the NFL and placed into the NFL's marquee Hall of Fame game. Ochoa has not served in a regular-season game so far, but he remains with the NFL as an alternate. And Mortaza just can't get over it.
"It was a bit of a shock to see guys that couldn't officiate in our league were officiating in the NFL," Mortaza says.
You may be surprised to learn Mortaza actually cares about the officiating in his league. Not many fans paying to see the Los Angeles Temptation and the Vegas Sin are going to fume about a blown call. It's safe to say the majority of the Lingerie Football League's fans want laundry on the field, but not the orange, flag-sized kind.
But Mortaza becomes indignant when he speaks of his decision to get rid of an entire officiating crew, which included Ochoa.
"They were hurting our overall broadcast caliber," Mortaza says. "And if it's opening up our players for potential injury, those things raise red flags here. Is it hurting overall credibility? When either of those two things are compromised, it's time to start thinking about parting ways."
The NFL disputes this, as it did when ProFootballTalk.com asked the league in August about Ochoa's background in the Lingerie Football League. "He said that is not true," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email, referring to Ochoa. "He was not dismissed by that league."
An email to Ochoa was not returned.
Mortaza was so upset after Monday night's debacle in Seattle that he even released a statement, published by Deadspin saying his league had dispatched "a couple crews," which he says are now "apparently" in the NFL. "We felt it was only fair," Mortaza wrote, "that NFL fans knew the truth as to who are officiating these games."
The conclusion here is not that Mitch Mortaza is a bastion of integrity. Nor is the takeaway that Ochoa is a blight on football. (Ochoa actually has a long career of officiating at many levels of the game.) The issue is that the head of the Lingerie Football League is a diehard Redskins fan who is, like everyone else, taken aback by the best football league in the world putting an inferior product on the field. How could the NFL actually think this is OK when the head of the LFL doesn't?
Mortaza is aware that his league is "behind the eight ball" when it comes to the credibility of the product on the field. Let's face it, how many people watch his players for the football? (How many even care that a football is used in the game?) But Mortaza's response is not to look the other way but to pay extra attention to who is running the game. "We comb colleges and Arena football," he says. "We hire all the people that test best. We do background checks. We get a ton of people that want to referee but seldom are they qualified."
And when a referee crew is not up to snuff, at least in Mortaza's eyes, it gets dismissed. Simple as that.
When Apple, the most valuable company in the world, has a defective part, it corrects the mistake. But when the NFL has substandard personnel, it does nothing. Of course "everyone makes mistakes," but a lot of these mistakes are correctable. There's no reason the 49ers should have been allowed extra challenges on Sunday. There's no reason the Titans should have been allowed extra yards after a personal foul. And there's no reason the last play of "Monday Night Football" couldn't have been overturned. These weren't snap judgments like a pass interference call. There was plenty of time for deliberation, calls made to the replay booth and adjustment. The NFL is telling us to believe in something that simply isn't believable. And "us" includes everyone from coaches to players to the head of a football league known for skin and silicone. If the head of a lingerie football league thinks the NFL needs to raise its standards, something is terribly wrong.
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