Friday, August 17, 2012

NFL replacement officials

Having been a card-carrying member of the UAW for over 30 years before I retired, it's likely I'm somewhat biased when it comes to union/management labor strife. While I understand the necessity of it at times, to this day it still grinds my gears some to see "scabs" replacing the "regular" workers while negotiations drag on.

That said, the replacement officials in the NFL are getting a raw deal. Everybody's all over these guys -- and that's not fair.

They just woke up in a new world. Sure, most of them probably had experience at the high school or college level, and were given a crash course in the ways of the NFL, but they're basically all rookies.

It's fully expected that rookie players will make lots of mistakes, but that's generally accepted as just part of the maturing process. Same with rookie head coaches. They make some bone-headed calls as well. Over time, both usually get better with experience. The same could be said of an electrician, plumber, or other tradespeople with a brand new journeyman's card in their back pocket, a teacher in their first class with real students, a cop fresh out of the academy, and countless other examples. Being "booksmart" is one thing, but in the real world most people have to learn "on the fly". Regardless the vocation, some go on to excel. Others crash and burn.

Yet consider who's raising the most hell about the replacement officials in the meantime. It's the media. How ironic. Print journalists seem to forget about when they were cub reporters and the mistakes they made. To boot, they've always had editors to correct many of their goof-ups before the public sees their work. Spellcheck and various other computer programs don't hurt either these days. The talking heads on opinionated TV sports shows can do umpteen "takes" before they get it right and the viewers see the final product. Quite the safety net.

I dare say very few of these same critics, that have the most influence on what fans think, have ever experienced anything remotely similar to what it's like to be an NFL replacement official right now. When they were writing their first stories, or learning how to look into different cameras without stuttering, they were under nowhere near the same pressure. Yes, they have their "deadlines" and news is a fast-paced business these days, but not nearly as fast as what's going on at ground zero in an NFL game. Throw in players and coaches from both teams constantly yapping at them, 50 or 60 thousand screaming fans in attendance, the pressure of already knowing they're not appreciated at most every level, and having to make tough calls in a matter of seconds. This is not exactly an easy job.

No, as a rule, I still don't like scabs, but under these circumstances, I think we should all cut them a little slack.


  1. The players don't like it. The coaches don't like it. The fans don't like it. The only reason this is happening is because the NFL honchos dictated it. They're arguing over less than one third of one percent of their total revenue while letting the games become a laughingstock. Leave it to upper management in their quest for the almighty dollar to screw things up.

    1. Anon. Yep, and the thing is, it's only exhibition games. They don't count. I've got a pretty good hunch the regular officials will be back on the field before they tee it up for real, and all this will be quickly forgotten. Thanks for commenting.