Everybody seems to be on the bandwagon of bashing the replacement referees in the NFL. Even those who hate referees and bash them are now longing for the regular officials to come back. I take a look at how replacement officials are in the same boat as the substitute teachers at junior and senior high schools. My approach is not to blame the replacements but just maybe the NFL management team is the culprit.
Replacement Officials in the NFL are similar to Substitute Teachers at the Jr. Sr. High School. Both groups have outstanding individuals but overall they just don’t get much respect. The NFL office seems to be similar to a Principal’s office where you just turn the replacement/substitutes loose with out much training and the expectation is that everything will be the same. Well it isn’t.
Replacement refs and substitutes take all kinds of criticism and perform duties under duress. After all, everybody knows that the real refs/teachers will be back. These poor refs are under so much pressure to get it right, that they get it wrong. Penalties take for ever to march off and forget challenges because that takes way too long to decide. The fear to act and throw flags is evident and when players know this, they take advantage of the situation by cheating. They grab jerseys, bump eligible receivers way past the five yard boundaries and commit pass interference without being called. We have all seen players become bullies to the replacements by yelling, smirking, just acting like spoiled brats. Then add in the coaches who work to intimidate these guys and you have a chaotic event underway. These replacements know that they cannot throw unsportsmanlike penalty flags because it is the NFL and that doesn’t happen.
Is this really much different then a substitute teacher at a junior or senior high school? Students know who the weak ones are and they can bully and intimidate a substitute into total inaction. These students are no different then the NFL players. Even the good students, like good players, can get caught up in bad behaviors because they know there won’t be any consequences. Students may not do their work, leave early, show disrespect, and the poor substitute just tries to survive. They often have no where to go for help. Students and players only do what they can get away with. Once control is lost it is difficult to regain.
When a teacher misses, students often suffer because the substitute is not the regular teacher and most likely hasn’t been trained in the subject area and lacks the qualifications of the regular teacher. It is not necessarily their fault but it happens. Substitutes may come in and find no plans left for them. Or they may have to show a “movie” or provide work that the students know will not be recorded. Tough job to do and a difficult position to be placed in.
Same thing with the replacement officials. You cannot expect a substitute referee to perform at the same level as the regular referee. They have to come in with little exposure to a game that has superb athletes at every position. They are the best of the best. They play at levels the replacements have never seen. Speed, agility, strength, and of course their pay levels that are just a bit more than the normal. You throw a replacement out there and it is no wonder we get the deer in the headlights looks. It takes awhile to adjust to the level of playing.
With that being said, some of the replacements are doing an outstanding job just like some substitute teachers do an outstanding job. The NFL management and school administrators must be more supportive of the replacements/substitutes and punish bad behaviors. If certain replacements/substitutes are so bad, then don’t bring them back to the football field or the classroom.
Inevitably the regular teacher returns to the classroom and the regular official will return to the NFL. All are welcomed back but it won’t take long for some students/players to criticize the regulars as being out of touch and not making the right call. So just maybe the regular officials being out has served a higher purpose for all officials and that is you can’t have a game without highly qualified people in position to run it. Whether it be youth football, junior high football, college football, or classrooms at school, you need well trained individuals in place, otherwise chaos will be an end result which leads to possible injury or lack of learning.
The good news is the good substitutes and the good replacements will be called upon to return when the regulars are out. So no unsporting comments as I will have to get out my flag and march off the 15 yards.
As an update, the NFL has now issued a warning to players and coaches who disrespect the replacement refs. Geez they have given the replacement referees the power to throw an unsportsmanlike penalty flag. I love this comment, “”Whoever the official is needs to be respected,” Anderson said. “Players need to respect themselves here, and whoever’s out there. I’ve heard the substitute-teacher analogy. This isn’t a classroom. These guys are professionals, and we expect a professional football environment.” I think they have read my blog post.