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August 24, 2001

by Bill Hogan



NFL officials (the guys that call penalties, not the suits in the league office) want to get paid as much as baseball umpires. Strike one. The NFL's offer to double their pay has been refused. Strike two. If the two sides keep balking at an agreement, a bunch of untrained zebras will be controlling the action on opening day. Strike three.

I say, send the whole group to the showers and replace them.


How much worse can a group of replacement refs be? It's not like hiring replacement players. You can't replace Brett Favre, or Ray Lewis. But I have to believe it can't be that difficult to find a respectable stand-in for Ed Hochuli (who?).

Sure, the replacements will need time and experience to hone their officiating skills at the professional level.

Sure, they will be noticeably greener than the crack crews that currently call each game.

Sure, they will blow some, or even many, calls. Sometimes, even when the game is on the line. Sometimes when the game has playoff, or even Super Bowl implications.

Here's a thought: maybe the league can help them out by installing some kind of expensive, annoying, time consuming technological fail-safe. Let the inexperienced refs use television cameras to review the bad or missed calls. You know, like when the network shows us couch potatoes the same play a few times from different camera angles. Oh, what do they call that…that's it, INSTANT REPLAY.

The league can let the new guys use instant replay to help them get it right!

I imagine the seven man, finely tuned, crews that currently don the black and white striped shirts would scoff at such and idea. Maybe that's their ace in the hole at the bargaining table. They figure nobody can do their job as well without the help of technology.

I guess they would be right. After all, no self-respecting, experienced NFL ref would ever blow a call so bad that it could be overturned simply by reviewing a re-play.

* * * * *

The NFL is threatening to "lock out" the officials. The officials are threatening to strike. With all the horrible officiating I've seen the past few years, I have to give the league the upper hand.

Marshall Falk is irreplaceable, so is Peyton Manning. The guy in the striped shirt standing behind the defensive line (who will, at some point in the game, get knocked on his ass or hit in the forehead with the nose of a football) can be replaced.

The refs want to make as much as major league umpires. I looked up the salary range of a major league umpire. They start at $82,000 per season. I whipped out my trusty calculator and divided eighty-two thousand by one hundred sixty-two. First year umps make 506.17283 dollars per game. The NFL is offering first year refs $2,133.00 per game.

I'd like to offer the idiot that is representing the officials union the use of my trusty calculator and a piece of advice: DO THE MATH!

* * * * *

I think the officials union would be hard pressed to drum up any public support for their cause.

I've never met a football fan that didn't think he/she could do a better job of officiating a game.

There's a reason the refs have numbers on their shirts. So fans can identify the really bad ones and direct their verbal "criticisms" accordingly. It's a lot easier to yell "hey, fifty-two, you're a bum" than "hey, you in the stripped shirt standing near the ten yard line on the home team side line, you're a bum". (Though both methods are perfectly acceptable, the former is much easier to successfully complete with a couple of beers under your belt).

From a fan's perspective, it's really hard to sympathize with someone who, each week, gets an all expense paid trip to an NFL city to watch a football game from the best seat in the house, get paid for it, and still be home in time to make it to the office Monday morning without using a sick day.

So, take the one hundred percent pay raise, count your blessings, and get back to work. It's not nearly as much fun yelling obscenities at replacement refs.


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