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Sometime ago, the debate raged as to whether NFL referees should become fulltime employees. That subject disappeared about the same as cabbage patch dolls.
In case you don’t know it, there are 17 referees on the NFL payroll. This does not include umpires, linesman, or judges, be it, field, line, back or side. What do some of these referees do for a living? Well, there’s an attorney, a Catholic school principal, an accountant, and a manager of a dairy processor, to name a few. If Ed Hochuli can practice law and referee NFL games, I say that the league should recruit Johnny Cochran and get some entertainment value out of it. At the very least, I am sure that Mr. Hochuli is very adept in running the clock.
Walt Anderson, in his 9th year, practices dentistry. Perfect! I figure that after getting jacked with some Novocain and before delirium sets in, I can ask Walt what it is that they are looking at when they cover their head with that hood and stare into the television camera during an instant replay timeout. Given the length of time necessary to overturn calls that are painfully obvious or uphold those that are clearly accurate, I figure that at the very least the first minute must be devoted to Jenna Jameison or Ginger Lynn.
With tax season right around the corner, I figure that I can head south to sunny San Diego and see Bill Vinovich, an accountant in his 4th year as an NFL ref. I the midst of his trying to make heads or tails out of my business receipts on the back of Bellagio bar napkins, I can ask him for clarification about the rule pertaining to the defense being called for offside if they jump into the neutral zone thereby causing the offense to move. It’s still called illegal procedure in most cases, but the new rendition seems to rear its head at the most inexplicable of times.
I have lots of curiosities, but I would save my last two-part question for referee Tom White, a consultant for Temple University. First of all, I would ask Tom if he were a democrat, which given the fact that he is from Temple, is probably an affirmative. Why would I ask if he were a democrat? Well, in case you were not aware, the trend involving the reelection of the presidential incumbent has been directly correlated to the winner of the Redskins game immediately preceding the election. In fact, it is 11-0. If the Redskins win, the incumbent emerges victorious. If the Redskins lose, the incumbent is defeated. By virtue of the Redskins loss on Sunday, the winner of the election will be Kerry. If you are not aware as to what happened on Sunday in that game, the Redskins scored what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown with two minutes to go on a 43-yard pass play from Mark Brunell to Clinton Portis .
Unbeknownst to Portis, who had already taken the celebratory leap into the end zone, James Thrash was called for illegal motion as White and company claimed that he was not set for a full second prior to the snap, something that is required when a receiver goes in motion. Replays suggest that the call was extremely marginal at best, and if someone could convince me that it was not a full second, it is certainly a call that would not normally be acknowledged particularly with a game hung in the balance. Which brings me to the second of my two-part question Mr. White, ‘Just what the hell were you thinking, especially with our election on the line? Joe Gibbs, coach of the Redskins, has described it as ‘a mystery.’
|Do you think John Kerry had any interest in Sunday’s game between Green Bay and Washington?"(AP Images)
The point of this article is to explore the issue of full time officials. I don’t see how being a dairy processor manager, and dealing with cows, butter, and stratospheric milk prices transcends itself into refereeing NFL football games. Nor do I think it is appropriate for a lawyer burdened by caseload and courtrooms to be running out onto a football field during his precious leisure time. Does he need the money? If someone were asked to fix cars for three hours per week, after working their day job full time, is one to realistically believe that they could be as effective as if they fixed cars on a full time basis?
Thirty years ago, even NFL players had to take conventional jobs during the week to supplement the little money they made as professional football players. There was limited revenue as TV, cable, luxury boxes, and NIKE were either non-existent or in their infancy stages. NFL officials have a difficult job, however, one that should have been made easier by the adoption of instant replay. Unfortunately, the implementation of that improvement seems to be chaotic. Calls that were previously deemed not subject to review because they were judgmental in nature, or because there was the issue of the whistle being blown, are now being reviewed. I know the coaches are confused, as red flags are often times thrown out of disgust more so than logic. It is clear that not all of the officials have a firm grasp as to what is going on.
Several weeks ago, Joe Theismann, in an attempt to spoof the referee’s confusion on a replay, used a cartoon cliché’ by mocking the term ‘Which way did he go George’ to underscore the comedy of errors taking place on a review. Heaped onto the replay problem is a lack of consistency in the calls, a prime example being that of Tom White and crew’s flub at RFK.
The NFL certainly cannot make the argument that they lack the financial resources to salary the referees. Good work often goes unnoticed, and right now the referees are absorbing far too much of the spotlight. If they insist on maintaining the status quo, maybe they should look to other professions that are afforded more leisure time so that the referees can devote more of their own personal resources during the week towards honing their craft, or not taking on the stresses of a pressure packed job. Mike Carey is a great example of an official that does a terrific job with respect to all aspects of officiating, including that of maintaining full control on the field. Mr. Carey’s efficiency, while pointing out his strengths, serves notice that there is room for major improvement amongst his peers.
For those of you that do not know Mike Carey, he is the African American official that always dons the designer headgear and fancy earmuffs for those contests played during inclement weather; something that could be explained by the fact that he owns a ski accessory shop in California. That may also explain why he may have more time to devote to his ‘ second job’ by virtue of the fact that ski shops in California are not exactly bustling during the summer or fall months. If the NFL doesn’t want to spend the money, maybe some sort of a compromise is in order. Let’s leave the doctors, lawyers, and accountants to their chosen field, not to compromising a game that requires continuing education and a somewhat clear head.