In both 1979 and 1995 Major League Baseball’s umpires were locked out during a strike, and the league used replacements from the minor leagues, with a noticeable downtick in performance. Now, imagine if the league hadn’t even taken minor league umps, but plunked rejects from independent baseball into the middle of a game between the Red Sox and Yankees.
This is the kind of situation the NFL may well be looking at.
The NFL referees have been locked out since June 3, not only unable to consummate a deal between their union and the league, but there’s been absolutely no communication between the two sides since that date. Things aren’t looking good in terms of getting a deal done before the start of the season.
But the story is much, much more bizarre than that.
As near as we can tell, there are at least a couple additional aspects to this issue that make it much more detrimental than just finding some replacement officials, the first being the quality of the 120 referees that have been selected to officiate the 2012 NFL season. According to former NFL ref Jerry Markbreit and CBS Chicago, the new batch would not be capable of controlling the game at the professional level, and none have even worked Division I NCAA games.
“You have to realize that there is no game if the competitive nature of this game isn’t controlled,” said Markbreit. “The NFL officials, the best in the land, are the ones that control this game. When you put replacements in there, you are compromising the nature of the game.”
But the story doesn’t stop there, as even the underwhelming resumes of the group of replacement refs is being questioned. According to FOX Sports’ Mike Pereira, who just so happens to be the former vice president of officiating for the NFL, the league is flatly lying about the credentials of its scab refs, noting that one official who worked the recent Hall of Fame Game was released from the Lingerie Football League midway through last season.
Consider that for a moment. A referee who was released from a league that makes a continued mockery of women’s athletics was allowed to officiate a marquee event for the National Football League.
With training camps still in session there is potentially time to get a deal done with the NFL Referees Association before the start of the season, but time is running out, and the fact that the two sides haven’t spoken doesn’t bode well for future relations. We’ll see how this develops.