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The Sportsman of the Day
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012
By BOB FRANTZ
A media colleague tweeted the following question on Wednesday regarding the eventual return of the regular NFL officials to Sunday playing fields:
“Will Ed Hochuli get a standing O?”
Based on the mood of the collective football nation right now, which seems to view the replacement officials as something they stepped in at a dog park, and the locked-out union officials as working class heroes victimized by a bullying legion of billionaires, he probably will.
And when he does, it will be ridiculous.
But then again, what isn’t ridiculous about the National Football League right now?
The popular Hochuli is not actually at the center of this thing, of course, but he has become the de facto face of the officials’ union thanks to a commanding presence when flipping on his microphone and a set of biceps that makes Peyton Hillis envious.
Yes, the regular game officials that have been absent through the first quarter of this season have stood united in solidarity against the owners, but they now sit more comfortably, negotiating from a newfound position of strength after the Monday night embarrassment in Seattle. Fans and players alike are begging the two sides to come to a deal quickly, believing that the union officials will speed to the rescue, their black and white striped capes flapping in the breeze behind them, and preventing another game from being decided by incompetent replacements who mean well but who are clearly in over their heads.
The truth of the matter, however, is that the locked-out officials are not shouldering nearly enough of the blame for the disaster that is now 3 weeks into the destruction of the integrity of what is usually the most well-run organization in all of team sports.
The average salary for a union official in 2011 was right at $150,000. And while that figure pales in comparison to the millions of dollars earned by the players these guys are out there supervising, it’s pretty compensation for a part-time job.
That’s right, NFL officials are part-time employees who work a grand total of 20 days per year, including 4 preseason and 16 regular season games. Sure, they may spend a few hours each week looking at game film and critiquing their own performance, but nothing so arduous as to prevent them from holding their own full-time careers, which they do.
Crews assigned to work playoff games receive extra compensation.
So each official has his own full-time career, allowing them to pull in dual salaries, while receiving benefits and pensions from whatever company that employs them on a full-time basis.
Yet here they sit, watching the game they profess to care about being destroyed because the NFL owners refuse to give them considerable raises along with full benefits and pensions for their part-time jobs as well.
If the NFL players can be portrayed as the personification of greed whenever they are at a contract impasse, why are the game officials somehow getting a pass as innocent pawns in the stalemate that is severely damaging the league? How can an official who is not satisfied with $150,000 for 20 days of work be seen as anything other than greedy?
Sure, the owners have enough money to pay them triple what they make without feeling it, and they could put together a pension fund that wouldn’t bother them either. But why should they? Part-time employees in all other walks of life work without pensions, and for far less money than these guys are being paid. So precisely why, again, should feel sorry for them?
Ed Hochuli and his union brothers don’t deserve a standing ovation when they return any more than the NFL does for the insulting statement they issued defending the indefensible call made on Monday night by the replacements. Rather, Hochuli and his brethren deserve a kick in the pants for the abject greed that has left an indelible black mark on the NFL “shield”. The replacement refs might not be very good at their jobs, but they’re out there giving it their best shot while the regular officials, who make their own fair share of game-changing mistakes, by the way, sit on the sidelines with their hands out.
Finally, on the ridiculous statement issued by the league in support of the one of the worst calls in league history:
The statement read: “When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.”
That statement is a bald-faced lie, and I cannot believe no one in authority is calling them on it. The officials on the field did NOT determine that both Tate and Jennings had possession. Only one official determined that, while the other determined it was an interception, and appropriately signaled the touchback. With conflicting calls in the end zone, how can the league tell us with a straight face that the “call on the field” field stood?
The “white hat”, or referee in charge, never even conferred with the 2 officials making conflicting calls, so that one on-field ruling could be made before sending that ruling up to the booth for a review. Consequently, there was no official on-field ruling of “simultaneous possession” before the referee went to the booth for a review.
“In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable,” the statement read. “Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood.”
Once again, an outright lie. There WAS no call “on the field”, since one official signaled touchdown, another signaled interception, and the referee failed to communicate with both to make one final on-field ruling. So in the end, we have not only the incompetence of the on-field officials making a travesty of the game, but we now have the dishonesty of league officers fabricating stories from scenarios that never happened, all to justify the unjustifiable.
The NFL has never been in worse shape. And this is a league that once used replacement PLAYERS.