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It’s much more than getting call, rules right



Replacement officials at an Aug. 2 practice for the Panthers in Spartanburg, S.C.

All eyes are on the replacement officials as they begin to call games that count.  The NFL has hired replacement officials to call the games after management locked out members of the NFL Referees Association in a labor dispute.  Many fans will be ready to immediately render a verdict on a call out in the open, but getting a holding call, pass interference call, or touchdown call correct is just one facet of good officiating.

While not as clear, good officiating also encompasses game administration.  Does the official get the ball ready for play quickly?  Does the referee tell the sidelines of the foul and enforcement options quickly, announce the foul, enforce the penalty, and get back to the game in an efficient way?  Does the crew get into and out of commercial breaks without undue delay?  If the crew needs a conference, do the officials hash out the call quickly and correctly?  Failing to do the above in an efficient manner turns a three-hour game into a three-and-a-half hour game or longer.  Fans like action; they do not like to sit through extended officials conferences while the referee and his crew try to make a call.  Television networks also want the games to be completed as close to three hours as possible so the viewers can get to the late game or 60 Minutes or The Simpsons as soon as possible.  TV executives will get frustrated if it takes the replacement officials more than three hours to officiate a game and several minutes of the game time are spent on conferences over simple rulings that members of the NFLRA would solve in less than 30-seconds.

When it comes to getting a call right or making the call quickly, I vote for the right call.  But if it takes the replacement officials too long to make the right call, the pace of the game will suffer to the detriment of the fans and viewers at home.

This is just another layer of pressure being put on the replacement officials, and one you might be interested in watching as the season starts.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"