I’m Siding With the Replacement Refs (for Now)
by Gus Jarvis
Sep 06, 2012 | 1295 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Is it really that big of a deal that replacement referees will be in place this week as the National Football League opens up its 2012 regular season? From what I’ve heard it’s going to be the coming of a football Apocalypse.

Really, though, is it going to be that big of a deal? I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s not like we’re trying to land on the moon or something. These guys are refereeing a football game. Thousands of people at all kinds of levels know how to referee a football game. Get to know the rules and then call the game. It can’t be that hard, can it?

Obviously, the NFL referees who are currently holding out for more money believe it’s the most technical job of all time and that only a very few are cut out to do the job as well as they do.

Because of the labor dispute NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell locked the referees out last June and has hired replacement officials. So far, those replacement officials, or scabs, depending on what side you come down on, have been highly criticized for their work in preseason games. Newspaper opinions, talk radio and TV pundits have constantly bashed every move the replacement refs have made.

For me, you had to have watched a hell of a lot of preseason games to get a handle on how well the replacements are doing. I’ve watched a total of about 20 football minutes of preseason action and so far, all I’ve seen is, well, preseason football. I failed to notice all of these supposed criminal acts made by the replacement referees. The football I watched looked like football refereed by regular football referees.

But maybe my short stint of watching preseason football is not the best gauge. I didn’t watch much and when I did, I didn’t really pay attention. (I was focused on Peyton Manning’s footwork.)

So maybe I missed a few replacement referee blunders, like a mishandled coin toss. And then there was a miscalled touchback on a kickoff. There have been a few mistakes that shouldn’t have happened but hey, these guys are under a hell of a lot more pressure to perform well than the regular referees have ever had. These poor guys are in the spotlight now, and every sneeze, hiccup and missed holding call will be played on Sports Center’s highlight reel 50 times.

Last weekend, the NFL and the locked-out referees tried a last-ditch effort to come to an agreement on their dispute before the preseason kicked off on Wednesday evening. Of course, things didn’t go well even with the regular season deadline coming this week.

“We met with the NFL this morning and discussed various potential solutions to reach a new collective bargaining agreement,” HYPERLINK ""  Michael Arnold, lead negotiator for the NFL Referees Association, told the Associated Press. “Unfortunately, we were unable to reach any agreement.

“We are disappointed because it means that our members will not be back on the field for Week 1 of the regular season due to the NFL's continuing lockout. We remain willing to negotiate with the NFL in order to reach a fair agreement.”

From the NFL, it was a little more brief and to the point.

“Commissioner Goodell and other NFL staff members concluded three days of talks today with representatives of the NFLRA without reaching an agreement,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the AP. “No further talks are scheduled. We are proceeding with the replacement officials.”

What the NFL was really saying in that statement is, “We like our chances with the replacement referees. We are willing to take this gamble.”

This is why I feel for the replacement referees right now. Yes, they are getting a paycheck and yes, they are working regardless of a labor dispute but the weight of the football world is now on their shoulders in so many ways.

If the replacement referees can somehow perform fairly well over the next few weeks without any serious mishaps, the locked-out referees are going to start to lose some of their bargaining power. It would somehow be proof that other people can actually ref a professional football game. You better believe the regular refs will be sitting at home hoping for mistakes of the highest degree. Those real refs on the couch will be seeing more holding calls than they’ve ever seen in their life.

And you know Goodell and Co. will be on the couch cheering for the replacements every time they get a call right. The better the replacements do, the less Goodell will have to pay the regular referees at some point.

The weight of the labor dispute now rests on the replacement refs. So they have that going for them.

Of course, the biggest weight these replacement refs now carry is the pressure from all us ravenous fans who demand a perfect game, and to never be on the wrong end of a bad call that could cost a game. And then there are the coaches and players they are going to have to deal with. You know there are going to be some nasty things said on the field if a call is close.

Right now, there is no way I’d want to be one of those replacement refs. They have a lot riding on them in a profession that will never be perfect. Perhaps the most interesting notion this referee lockout scenario has brought out is this recent respect for the NFL referee.

Until now there has never been this booming support for the NFL referee. We’ve always kicked and screamed at our TV sets when they miss calls. Rarely do we look at our buddy watching the game next to us and say, “Man, these refs are getting them all tonight! Wow. These guys are truly craftsmen.”

Give me a break. I’m going to side with the scabs in this one. Hopefully they can prove to the rest of the world that refereeing a football game isn’t rocket science.

Of course, the replacements better not screw anything up on Sunday night when Manning and the Broncos take on the Steelers. I’m sure I’ll have no problem joining the anti-replacement lynch mob if they do.


Twitter: @gusgusj

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