The infamous National Football League referee lockout came to an end this past Wednesday, three weeks into an NFL season that utilized replacement officials so that games could be played as scheduled. These replacements came from a variety of levels, including high school and lower division college. With an objective eye, it was clear the replacements weren’t as skilled or experienced as the regular NFL refs who, through their new agreement with the league, will earn more than $200,000 a year by 2019 for what equates to a part-time job.
The new deal comes on the heals of perhaps the most watched and most publicized officiating blunders in sports history this past Monday night. In a game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, a touchdown was ruled on a pass to the end zone that appeared to be an interception on the last play of the game. So, instead of Green Bay securing the win with the interception, Seattle was awarded the win by virtue of the touchdown reception. In layman’s terms, poor officiating changed the correct outcome of a game.
The first game back for the regular refs was Thursday night. The football fans in Baltimore gave them a standing ovation when they entered the field — an odd sight considering fans love to complain about officiating.
Our point is referees and umpires are human and their calls aren’t personal. It’s our fandom and our affiliations that are personal. There are good calls and bad calls. Play sports long enough and you’ll experience both. Too often we attend local athletic events and shake our heads at how disrespectful otherwise respectable people can behave toward game officials. The comments and demeanor can get downright ugly. Our advice is let the coaches address the officials and register their concerns. Parents, relatives and friends should focus on positive reinforcement toward their players.
The NFL referees lockout was a reminder of how difficult officiating can be. If we can remember that going forward in all levels of sport, we will all be well served.