The replacement officials will screw up. They’ll look bad at times, and they’re going to make you really angry. Maybe they’ll do it a little more than the regular refs (more on that in a minute), but still, fans hating referees is a sacred tradition that’s existed ever since it was determined that officials of some kind are needed to enforce rules during organized sporting events.
So go ahead, be mad when the replacement officials blow a call. Be really, really mad. Just don’t be surprised. Naturally, replacement refs won’t be as good as the regular refs, because if they were then they ‘d be regular refs. And since the replacement refs aren’t even coming from major college conferences, the step down in some cases may be significant, with some zebras plucked from leagues where clothing is nearly optional.
None of this is news, or a new development, as we’ve known for quite some time that if replacement refs were used in games, they’ll probably suck. But while we know where most of these officials came from (the lower tiers of college football, or the arena league, or retirement), how exactly did they become available to work NFL games right now, and potentially during the season? Was there a fallout of some kind with their previous employer?
In a series of tweets last night, CBS’ Mike Freeman answered those questions with a few damning examples of incompetence and misconduct among the current scabs.
The first one involved a disgraced former teacher:
One of the replacement refs, a line judge working a game tonight, was fired from his job as a teacher after it was discovered he sent letters that contained scrawled threats and racist hate messages to co-workers. It was determined this line judge actually sent the racist cards to himself and others, so he could be transferred. Eventually, the school used a handwriting expert to determine the teacher wrote the notes, according to a published report.
Meh. Participating in an organized poker tournament five years ago is still way worse. It’s not even close.
While sending racist threats and hate mail to facilitate your own firing definitely shows a major character flaw — you know, the kind in which you’re a complete asshole — it may not have any bearing on an official’s ability to make the correct calls on a football field.
OK, fair enough. But this does:
A second replacement official was at the center of what is considered one of the worst officiated Pac-10 games in that league’s history. USC-Stanford game in 2010. Late in the game, USC ahead. Close game. Official, now a replacement ref, forgot to start the clock. This allowed Stanford to get ball back sooner than it should have and they won the game. Writers covering the contest called it one of the worst officiated games they had ever seen.
So yeah, there’s that. Brutal.
Call this rumor mongering if you want, but through one full night of preseason play the scabs haven’t done themselves many favors. There was a particularly glaring error in the Bills-Redskins game that unnecessarily cost Buffalo a challenge.
With 3:50 remaining in the first quarter, Bills punter Brian Moorman hit a 49-yard punt that was down by Ruvell Martin at the 4-yard line. Back judge Craig Burd saw it differently, ruling the play a touchback.
The ball was marched to the 20 as the crowd in Orchard Park rained boos down on the field. The local Bills telecast captured Moorman screaming at a side judge.
Bills coach Chan Gailey challenged the play moments before the Redskins were able to run another play. The call was overturned.
It’s preseason, so this mistake didn’t matter, because nothing really matters in preseason games. But during the regular season when every timeout and every challenge is vital and guarded like gold, there’s the potential that a slip of this nature could be a game-altering one.
The locked out officials know that, which is why they’re chillin’, smiling, and collecting their leverage one day at a time.
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