Real Refs (Thankfully!) Back in Place

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Millions of Americans sat in front of their TVs late September 24th, 2012 and witnessed what has been called the worst call in the history of the National Football League. After pulling into the lead, the Green Bay Packers had a heartbreaking finish to their game against the Seattle Seahawks when the referees called, what was clearly an interception for Green Bay, a Seattle winning touchdown. This had America fired up. Why would the refs make such a bad call? Have they lost their mind? The answer behind all these questions is very simple. This call, along with many others throughout the beginning of this year’s football season, was so bad because these aren’t true NFL refs; they’re replacements.

These replacements were called in when the real officials were ‘locked out.’ The lockout was due to a number of issues, but the main reasons were money and pensions. The officials did not find it fair that the raise the NFL offered them was not equal to the one offered in 2006. Also, when these refs were hired they were promised pension packages, but now the NFL wanted to replace it with a standard 401K. This would reduce the total they were promised by 60%.

There isn’t one referee at a game, they work in teams of 6 officials. There are 17 referee ‘teams’, one for every game that can happen in a week, and one alternate just in case. But the NFL threw a curve ball when they said that there was talk of hiring more refs creating 20 teams. This would give the league the power to ‘bench’ officials if the NFL doesn’t feel like they reached their officiating requirements at that week’s game.

The last thing the league and the officials could not agree on was whether they should be paid as full time or part time employees. Unlike all the other professional sports referees, NFL refs are not paid full time and more often than not have other jobs at home.

“Off the top of my head I know some (NFL refs) are business owners, police officers, and trial lawyers” explained junior Tommy DeNicola.

However, not many people know that being a ref is harder than it looks. Not only do you have tens of millions of people watching you decide the outcome of a game, but when not on the field you have 25+ hours devoted to studying film, making sure you know all the rule changes, and you have to make sure you in tip-top shape in order to keep up with the athletes the entire game.

The NFL started training the replacement officials when they saw that there wasn’t going to be a break in the lockout anytime soon.

“When I first heard of these replacement (refs) I was told that they were going to be old college referees, and what they called ‘elite replacements’. Well that’s not what we ended up with” said senior Mike Perri. He’s right, the so called ‘elite refs’ were not all they were expected to be. Wrong calls multiple times a game pushed NFL fans’ buttons and the Packer-Seahawk game was the last straw.

Shortly after that game, and 32-plus hours of deliberating and negotiating, the officials and the NFL came to a compromise. The refs that are currently employed by the NFL are grandfathered in to a pension for the next 5 years while any newly hired officials go straight to 401K. Also agreed upon was that the NFL will train new officials who will have to earn their way up to the ranks of the officials now, creating competition.

“Let’s all hope that this never happens again and everyone can just compromise and be happy. It drove the whole country crazy!” said senior Jill Cumming.

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