Full disclosure: at the beginning of the NFL season, I was right there with everyone, making fun of the replacement officials. Because it was funny! We all shook our heads in the preseason at some of the silly calls (or no-calls) made. We chuckled when the announcing team would talk about the plays. But it was all in good fun, like laughing at the goofy kid who knows that he’s goofy and will laugh along with you.
The goofy kid doesn’t think it’s funny anymore, Bangers.
You could see the trends, in the players, coaches and even the announcing staff, throughout the past several weeks. The mood has regressed from head-shaking, to major annoyance, to anger. We have had several cases – especially this past week – of the referees being accosted, both verbally and physically, by coaches and players alike. To make matters worse, the announcing crew is not much more subdued. Teams are making strategic differences in play in order to take advantage of the reprefs (sounds so much nicer than “scabs”), and honestly I don’t blame them.
Now with all that said, let’s not mince words: the replacement refs are TERRIBLE. I’m not defending them from a pure officiating standpoint, mainly because that argument is irrelevant. If you dressed me in the black and white and threw me out in front of thousands of drunk, unruly fans, as well as 22 large dudes that could break my back like Bane, I would probably call encroachment on the kickoff, soil myself, and go hide in the locker room. And that’s the point. They SHOULD be terrible, because they are good enough for what they do. We’re talking FCS and lower college refs, high school, middle school, Pop Warner, you name it. They don’t have to perform at the level that BCS and NFL refs do, so is it fair for all of us to expect that they do? Nope.
Then who do we blame? Because there must be a scapegoat. The easy answer is the NFL, for not giving the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) the compensation they want. But remember, kids, that this be a bidness; the goal is to make money, not friends. The NFL feels that the reprefs are passable enough to allow them to finish the negotiations with the NFLRA in a way that will benefit the NFL. But they have everything to lose here. Sooner or later, the idle complaints will be coupled with a decrease in viewership, and especially a decrease in ticket sales. The NFL likely will feel the heat from the owners, and at that point the NFLRA will have leverage. I doubt anything else – including player safety concerns – will make as much of an impact.
In closing, I urge all of you to stop treating the reprefs like scum. For they are not scum. (This guy is kinda scum for not opening his mouth, but the others are not scum.) They are fathers, sons and brothers – as well as mothers, daughters and sisters, thanks to Shannon Eastin. They are scared to death of their public image, as well as their basic safety, and eventually something bad is going to happen to one of them. The Ginger Hammer will make folks lighten their wallets a bit, but most players and coaches could care less. From the looks of it, this thing ain’t gonna be figured out anytime soon; so for now, before you go badmouth a repref, just think about it for a second, and make sure the blame is going to the right place.
UPDATE (09/24/2012, 11:12 PM): Well that happened. Golden Tate might have single-handedly… double-handedly?… accelerated the referee negotiations. I reiterate: the replacement refs are TERRIBLE, but it’s not their fault that they’re being put in the situations that they are. To the Rog and the NFLRA: I hope this lights the appropriate fire under all your asses. To the fans: as hard as it might be, I think it’s time to hit the owners where it hurts. Therefore: I, Armando V., hereby boycott the viewing of any NFL programming, including highlights, from this point forward, until the replacement refs are excused.
UPDATE #2 (09/24/2012, 11:20 PM): I just spoke to Casey, and he’s on-board; therefore, NO NFL COVERAGE FROM THE INTERROBANG SPORTS TEAM until it’s resolved.
UPDATE #3 (09/27/2012, 7:50 PM): Thank. Goodness. The current refs get pension through 2016-17 season; new officials snag a 401(k). Average salary rises quite a bit as well, up $24k next year vs. 2011. The NFL can hire some officials full-time as well if they so choose. But most importantly, Ed Hochuli and Co. are back in the saddle. Thus, the Interroban has been officially lifted. Officially.