As criticism of replacement officials mounts, another important difference between the locked-out officials and their substitutes is emerging.
The men whom the league has assembled over a period of years have the innate ability to don thick skin, to forget about their mistakes, to tune out the coaches and players and media and fans, and to continue to do their jobs efficiently and decisively despite realizing that they will be subject to scrutiny for anything and pretty much everything they do.
Plenty of the folks from NCAA Division II and lower apparently are being paralyzed by the reality that they will be subject to scrutiny for anything and pretty much everything they do.
How else can the extended delay at the end of the first half of Wednesday night’s Bucs-Redskins preseason game be exclaimed? Long after the Buccaneers called a time out to stop the clock, the referee trotted over to review the spot of the ball, via a replay challenge initiated by the booth. And then he eventually came back to the middle of the field and explained that the call on the field stands. And then everyone lined up for the next play. And then the whistle was blown.
And then the referee turned on his microphone and said he needs to take another look. And scattered laughs and moans emerged from the crowd.
Look, we realize that the locked-out officials make plenty of mistakes. But we can’t recall a single time when a referee had to go back under the hood after already doing so. While the rule book doesn’t expressly forbid it, the rule book states that the review must be completed in 60 seconds.
With the regular season only a week away, the biggest challenge for the league comes from getting the replacement officials ready to properly and quickly administer the game after the whistle is blown, knowing immediately what to do and how to do it despite the many distractions inherent to making those decisions with thousands of voices telling them what to do — and millions of eye watching.
Wouldn’t it be easier to just work out a fair compromise with the locked-out officials?