Officiating sports is a tough job. I know from experience, dude.
Of course, in no way am I officiating at the level of the replacement NFL officials, or even college officials. I officiate high school basketball in the Chicago area, and this winter I'll get my first taste of varsity ball.
I can empathize with the replacement officials, or any officials for that matter, because of how much scrutiny they're under. As I said before, it's a tough job to begin with, and then they've got Big Brother (read: everyone in the freaking country) looking over their shoulder. We critique every call as if we know what we're talking about. I'll admit to being guilty of it, too. I'll open a separate tab in my browser specifically to follow Mike Pereira on Twitter during games.
Here's what's different about what I do and what they do. When I'm reffing high school basketball, the kids are playing because they want to, because they love the game and they love competition. For the coaches, it's the same way (for the most part, at least). The parents want to enjoy watching their kids play. When you start officiating higher levels of athletics like college or professional games, there are livelihoods on the line. Players, coaches, and general manages make their livings on the sport; they expect and deserve the best officials they can possibly get. The pressure to get every call right is magnified ten-fold.
The part I can empathize with the most is the increase in the speed of the game. The guys we see on the field now are used to seeing lower-level college athletes. Now they're seeing the same game but five times faster. It takes awhile to catch up when the speed of the game increases like that.
My first season officiating basketball, there was a last minute opening for a JV boy's game. I took it, figuring I could do the game no problem. Man was I wrong. I was overwhelmed from the opening tip. Thankfully, I had a good partner that night and he helped me through some of the stuff I needed to work on. I learned from the game and improved as an official from it. The game was too fast for me that evening. But through experience, the game has slowed down to the point where I'm comfortable on a JV boy's game.
It has to be the same exact thing for these officials. They WILL keep improving, even if you can't see it on the field. They take their job seriously, they don't want to suck. Things will get better.
What I can't accept, though, is unprofessional conduct. News broke on Sunday morning that the NFL pulled an official off the Saints-Panthers game because he was a self-proclaimed Saints fan, and another official told LeSean McCoy that he needed McCoy to do well for his fantasy team.
Those kinds of stories make me sick as an official. Those guys have worked so hard to get to where they are in their officiating careers, and they let something like that bring them down. It's just plain stupidity.
Football fans, these guys don't get enough credit for how well they've done under the pressure. Yes, screw-ups are going to be magnified, and some games might take longer because they need to huddle to get something right. They're trying, though, and all we can ask is that they do their best until the regular officials come back.
They must feel like Peter Gibbons with his TPS Report memo.