Dear NFL Replacement Refs,
With opening weekend behind us, much has been written, posted and screamed to you or about you regarding your performance over the last week. During the pre-season, we watched the games play out, not like the NFL we knew, but more like an inter-squad high school scrimmage refereed by 7 dads. We accepted your inexperience and understood that you were doing your best; because of this we had excused the blown calls and the slow pace. Now however, we have crossed from simple scrimmages into the regular season and the tone of the nation has changed.
The social networks are abuzz with armchair quarterbacks venting their anger regarding your latest error. Having just watched a replay for the 7th time, two live and five thanks to the rewind feature on our DVR’s, on our 60” HD LED/LCD 1080p 120hz televisions in super slow motion in which even the sweat is visible slashing into the grass; we see through a gap between knees and elbows where the football momentarily came lose and touched the ground which you called a completed catch. In the next play, while you are watching the multiple movements of any one of 22 guys on field, we noticed that you failed to call false start when the left guard’s right ankle twitched prior to the snap. Two hours later and on another channel you threw the flag for roughing the passer when it was obvious to us when the play is slowed to 1/600th normal speed, the Outside Linebacker moved his helmet just to the left of the QB’s body at the last second and made a clean hit.
So we rant, we tell all our friends that our team was screwed by the replacement officials and we laugh at you like we snicker at the rent-a-cop rolling around the local mall on his Segway. Our Facebook pages are full of friends begging the NFL to settle at all costs with the ‘real’ refs. Fans posting on Twitter that you had thrown the flag for goal tending when a player slams the ball threw the uprights after a touchdown. Even the sports reports, unable to control their sullen faces as news came out Monday night that you were scheduled to continue in your positions for the next five games.
As if the outside world isn’t hostile enough, you must endure the constant barrage of insults launched on you by both coaches and players in your own work environments. While no NFL referee is perfect, your inexperience gains you no stadium cred. After your first blown call, ever play after where a flag is thrown or not thrown, every player was held, pushed or hit late and you failed to see. Same goes for time outs, what referee hasn’t given an extra one out.
Yet, we all need to pause, take a deep breath and exhale a meaningful thank you. No matter the situation or how badly the play was muffed you step in the very next play ready and willing to continue. After four weeks of a hard to watch pre-season, you manned up and allowed the wonder of the NFL to start on time. Thanks to you, the fantasy football leagues across the country are rolling as scheduled. Thanks to you, my Sunday afternoon chili party brought neighborhood friends together for the Packers game.
So while inside the NFL umpire circles you are known as scabs and too many Monday morning coaches or so called football analysts you are seen as black eye on the NFL; I see you as a New Skin Liquid Bandage. There might be a wound below the surface and at times it might hurt; however, most of the time you can’t tell you’re there and the activity we need to complete has been made possible by you. I commend you for your bravery in the face of certain criticism. I can forgive you for the botched calls in exchange for the football you have brought me. Just remember, it can only get better from here.