Early in my sportswriting career several prominent coaches in different sports taught me a valuable lesson.
They instructed their players and a few sportswriters to stop focusing on officiating.
Their message was the calls even out over the long run, so concentrate on things you can control.
I’ve accepted that theory through the years, and rarely in this column can you read very much about officiating.
But today I’m devoting the entire column to that subject, so you know something major has occurred.
It’s the National Football League labor dispute, and it’s hurting the sport quite a bit.
I’m not an expert in labor disputes. I don’t know who’s being unreasonable, the league or the officials.
But it sure appears that the NFL is making a big mistake by taking a firm stand as replacement officials make many mistakes and show they’re too inexperienced to officiate games at this level.
They’re lower division college officials who are showing that they’re in over their heads.
Some television commentators are saying these officials aren’t trained to identify pass interference. Players seem to be trying to get away with a lot, reasoning the officials won’t recognize infractions. Coaches are becoming increasingly frustrated. And worse of all, injuries are mounting.
I’ve seen the figure of $150,000 as the sum most NFL officials make in a season. If that’s all, the NFL should get them back as soon as possible because it’s being proven every week these officials are needed.
Some commentators have said that a serious injury will soon occur if replacement officials not accustomed to the speed of the game keep working.
In Sunday’s game between the Steelers and Raiders a serious injury did occur. Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was knocked unconscious and stayed on the field for a long time without moving, but no foul was detected by the officials.
It was a helmet to helmet hit which should have drawn a penalty.
Heyward=-Bey was taken to a hospital with a neck injury.
There were many other problems with the officiating on the NFL’s third Sunday, such as the replacement officials not knowing or properly interpreting the rules.
These are honest men doing their best but they’re not qualified to officiate NFL games.
The NFL should put on display the best players, the best coaches and the best officials. It’s a darn shame they’re letting a financial dispute tear down the quality of their product. Yet we hear that a bargaining session Sunday left the sides far apart.
Enough is enough.