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NFL, refs must find solution to impasse

September 16, 2012
By CRAIG REMSBURG - Senior Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

A wise, veteran Upper Peninsula high school basketball official once told me his best games were those in which no one knew he was there.

That meant he and his on-court partner did their jobs and did not draw attention to themselves with botched calls and/or no calls.

Players, coaches and fans were happy with their work.

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I thought about that last Sunday after watching the Detroit Lions and (gulp) Green Bay Packers open their 2012 seasons.

The NFL has locked out its regular officials in a contract dispute and replaced them with those not at the same level of expertise or experience.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell defends the league's stance, saying whatever consequences - if any - of using replacements now will mean better officiating down the road.

Since salary and retirement benefits seem to be at the center of the dispute, it's difficult to believe the officiating could get better if the officials earn more money.

But "operational issues" - whatever that means - are also being mentioned as a stumbling block in the two sides reaching a contract agreement.

I don't remember any blatant wrong calls, or no calls that should have been flagged, by the officials in the Lions' 27-23 win over the St. Louis Rams. Maybe my euphoria over the Lions' win has dimmed my memory.

But when I channel-surfed over to the Packers' contest against the San Francisco 49ers, I saw a couple of plays that made me question the replacement officials used in that game.

One, a 49ers' left tackle moved before the ball was snapped, allowing his team to complete the play and gain some yards. No flag was thrown at what I thought was an obvious penalty.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was livid at the non-call. He was justified in his disbelief.

Another time - and I didn't watch the Packers' game for long, as there's only so much of the Green and Gold I can take at one sitting - there was a pass interference call that shouldn't have drawn a flag.

Everyone makes mistakes. But the officiating crew in Green Bay seemed to make more than their share of errors.

I'm sure there were other NFL games during opening week in which the replacement officials exercised some poor judgment one way or another.

Particularly in Arizona's 20-16 victory over Seattle when the host Seahawks were awarded an extra timeout late in the game. That mistake didn't cost either team, though it could have.

What if that call had cost Arizona a win? Imagine the outcry that would have ensued.

Let's hope the replacement officials do a better job the next four weeks in which Goodell has drawn up a temporary schedule for them to work.

Better yet, Goodell and the officials' union need to settle their differences. And soon.

If they don't, some NFL team or teams are going to lose a game due to a botched officials' call or non-call. That could lead to a team missing the playoffs.

Goodell and the NFL would have a hard time living that one down.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is



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