We all need NFL replacement refs to serve as scapegoats. Blame the sluggish economy, ongoing tensions in Afghanistan, and one’s own personal conflicts on the poor judgments of these refs. A recent humorous article that blames various crises and problems on the NFL replacement refs reminded me of how much we need to point the finger at others to maintain our own innocence. When I commented on this article with family members, one of my nieces said in response that her middle school class playfully chooses a classmate on a daily basis to be the person to blame for a day. That way, no one ever really needs to take the blame for long! Unlike my niece and her class’s playful scapegoat exercise, the rest of us are not always so playful when we are blaming various kinds of “replacement refs” in the game of life.
Why do we participate in the blame game? How long have we been doing this? Let’s answer the second question first—according to Genesis 3, ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden: When God called Adam out for his disobedience, Adam blamed Eve and then Eve blamed the serpent. While it’s not in the text, perhaps the serpent went on to kick the family dog just before God cursed the serpent by forcing it to crawl on its belly! (Genesis 3:14)
Now to the first question: Why do we do this? No doubt, there are several reasons. No one likes to be blamed for mistakes and misfortunes. It just doesn’t feel good. But there is more. Why doesn’t it feel good? Among other things, it is because we are often self-righteous. We think we should be allowed by God and everyone else to serve as judge, jury, and prosecuting attorney. After all, we think we could do a better job than the replacement refs and God. Sure, the real NFL refs would be better than their replacements, but would we be better replacement refs and divine judges?
Now why pick on the replacement refs in the first place? They are trying to make the best of a bad situation. They never asked the regular referees to go on strike. If for some reason this leads you and me to blame the official refs who have been on strike, don’t forget to blame the players and the owners and the fans, which includes many of us, certainly me, and perhaps even you. Many of us are implicated. Many of us worship professional football. There is such a sense of entitlement, too. If we are NFL players, and also NFL refs, we usually seek to get as much as we can when we have the chance. If we are owners and fans, we usually seek to make sure that we are getting our money’s worth. So, if it’s more feasible to blame someone else or some other group and make them the scapegoats, we often tend to go ahead and do it. But in the end, we’re still going to have to pay the bill. Don’t think for a moment the owners or the league are going to bear the burden alone. We all will, even the replacement refs who remain NFL fans.
We all need NFL replacement refs to judge. But what happens when we’re the ones who make the poor judgments? And what if we’re made the scapegoats for things we didn’t do? Can we really blame others for doing that to us, when we’ve been doing it all along, and not just with NFL games, but also with the game of life?
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths. This volume and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.