All hail the replacement refs

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

Don't we all wish we could have had the luxury of temporary, inexperienced, and hastily trained replacements? Our stock would skyrocket. Our bosses would cave and come begging and pleading for our swift return. Our confidence would be buoyed, our purpose definitively defined.    

Congratulations NFL referees and NFL officials, you proved your point with the lockout. For three weeks you turned the country on its head and even had the President of the U.S. tweeting his disdain. But that's only because of the ignorant fools involved, us included.

As an NFL fan made frequently aware that replacement referees — most not deriving from the Division I college ranks because of that group's unusual loyalty to its NFL brethren — would begin the season officiating games, what did you expect?

Did you expect the replacement sideline judge, whose officiating experience it was reported extended only to the high school and Division III college level, to make the offensive pass interference call during the Hail Mary attempt in the Seattle-Green Bay game? What if he was told by NFL reps during his hurried training that regular refs rarely call interference during such last second Hail Mary passes?        

The replacement refs did the best they could considering the circumstances and the positions they were in. Going from separating a few zit-faced, 200-pound kids to being in the middle of an all-out fumble scrum with 22 mammoth 325-pound adrenaline-revved pros is no picnic. And also having to deal with the many combative coaches in the league must have been a real eye-opener for these guys.      

Denver Broncos head coach John Fox was caught on camera during Week 3 fuming at a replacement sideline judge that he did not have 12 players on the field when a flag was flown for too many players on the field. He was insistent, cursing in the face of the stone cold official. A replay showed, in fact, there were 12 Broncos players on the field. And someone should have told New England coach Bill Belichick that Baltimore's game-winning field goal did in fact stay within the right upright. Belichick, a seasoned NFL coach, should have known that field-goal kicks that rise above the crossbar are not reviewable, before chasing down and grabbing the arm of a replacement official after the game.

These replacements refs were berated by coaches, players and fans. Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan ($25,000), Belichick ($50,000), Fox ($30,000) and his defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio ($25,000) were just a few that were fined for arguing calls.

Throughout the entire ordeal there was one thing that we all should have kept in mind: Without these replacement refs, without these men agreeing to risk their reputations as picket line crossers and untested, unproven alternatives, there would have been no beginning to football this season. Let me rewrite that statement: There would have been no football. If you're like me, where your world pathetically revolves around football, then you can't fathom having to make the following decision.   

Would you rather have been sitting in your barcalounger watching the buffoonery that is the television program Wipeout or those first three weeks of NFL games? 

Don't answer that, your reputation is on the line.

Contact: bspencer@oakpark.com

Twitter: @oakparksports

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