Thursday, September 20, 2012

NFL Replacement Officials ARE Real Officials

There's been a lot of complaints by coaches and other interested parties about the quality of the replacement officials in the NFL.   The thing that irks me is that many people are calling for the "REAL" NFL referees to return as soon as possible.

Guess what?  The replacement ARE real referees.  According to the news reports I've read, most of the replacement officials work junior college,  Division II and Division III college football.  The quality of football at that level is not comparable to the NFL (or even Division I).  However, these officials ARE BETTER than your usual couch potato who's watching an NFL game from home.

It's unfortunate these replacement officials are being thrust into this position.   As a basketball official, I fully understand what these replacement officials are going through.  As a sports official, most people work their way up from the youth leagues, high school, college and then possibly the pros.

As you go up the chain, the quality of the games increase and there's only so many people that have the ability to work at the college and pro levels.   There is the physical ability to keep up with elite athletes. The other part is the knowledge and judgement to make quick decisions during a game.

For me personally, I'm perfectly fine officiating youth, high school and adult league basketball.  But even then, I don't officiate top flight varsity high school basketball.    I've done my share of games and I'm reasonably competent in what I do.

However, I've worked summer camps and leagues with higher level of high school teams.  Early on, it was a TOUGH adjustment to officiate higher quality games.  Over time, as my experience has grown, things have gotten easier.

The replacement officials are likely facing the same thing.  Most people usually don't go from officiating lower level football to working NFL games.  There is a process to ensure the integrity of the games.  The NFL's lockout of the regular officials have forced more inexperienced officials to work.  Yes, it is not looking pretty but in time they will get better.

But don't say that these "replacement officials" are not REAL officials.  They willingly accepted these assignments and without them, there would be no NFL games for us to watch.  While some of the officials may be struggling a bit, I am sure that some of them are ENJOYING the experience.  After all, there are only a select few that get the chance to officiate in a professional sports league.

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