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National Columnist

There would be no NFL right now without replacement refs, so stop bashing them

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Fill-in refs like Jim Core have been under the national microscope since the season started. (Getty Images)  
Fill-in refs like Jim Core have been under the national microscope since the season started. (Getty Images)  

Enough with the referee bashing. It's not instructive, not nice, not even necessary. What it does, Al Michaels and Mario Williams and Mike Pereira, is miss the point.

Replacement refs aren't hurting the NFL.

Replacement refs are saving the NFL.

This isn't a hard concept to follow, though Joe Buck and Troy Aikman and every wiseass on Twitter seems to have missed it, so let me spell it out slowly: Without referees, we have no football. These guys? These replacement refs? These men and women who walked off a high school or NAIA field to fill in for the NFL's locked-out referees? They're the reason we have football.

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They're the reason you're in the booth at all, Al Michaels, so stop mocking the linesman by telling America he's an eighth-grade geometry teacher or a retired insurance salesman from Des Moines, Iowa. Same goes for you, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, so show some respect instead of acting like the referees are ruining the game you're watching. Without them, you wouldn't be watching. Wouldn't be working. Wouldn't be relevant.

These replacement refs are the reason you're on the field, whining Mario Williams of the Buffalo Bills. They're the reason anyone is reading you on Twitter, former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira.

They're the reason you can turn on your TV on Sunday and watch your favorite sport, Twitter wiseass.

I swear, it's like everyone took their brain out of their skull, put it on a shelf and decided to handle this issue empty-headed. Let's rip the replacement refs! Look how bad they are!

Har!

Yeah, maybe they're not as good as the regular referees. I'm willing to concede that point, so long as you're willing to concede that the regular referees weren't all that good in the first place. Nobody ever looked at Ed Hochuli warming up on the field before the game and sighed in relief. The regular refs were so good, Bill Leavy apologized to the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, four years after the fact, for the way he and his crew screwed up Super Bowl XL. Leavy worked so hard to improve that he screwed up a replay in the Giants-Packers playoff game last season, though this mistake -- unlike the avalanche of mistakes in Super Bowl XL -- didn't affect the outcome.

That's who we're missing this season. Not perfect referees who get every call right. Not soothing referees who put a stadium at ease. No -- we're missing Bill Leavy. And given that Leavy keeps getting plum assignments like Super Bowls and playoff games, he's apparently one of the best officials in the NFL.

So good riddance to him.

And thank you to the eighth-grade geometry teacher and to the retired insurance salesman from Des Moines, people who bravely -- yes, I said bravely -- crossed a picket line to referee these games. Lots of folks out there are pro-union, so pro-union that they get incensed when anyone crosses a picket line anywhere. And to those people, I say this: I understand. Well, not really. I've never had a union job, my parents have never had union jobs, so I don't understand. But I understand that I don't understand, so if the idea of a scab official offends you to no end, have at it. Your life, your worldview.

But it's not my worldview. I'm not mad at these officials for crossing that picket line. Maybe they betrayed the NFL's regular referees, men who want to get paid exorbitantly for being mediocre at a part-time job, but they didn't betray me -- they saved my NFL. They saved your NFL, too, knowing full well that many of you would vilify them as scabs, all for the right to step onto a field with cameras watching their every move and with jackasses like Al Michaels and Joe Buck ready to dissect their every mistake.

Brave human beings, these replacement referees, but let's not forget -- they are human beings. They're going to screw up, like they screwed up in the Seattle-Arizona game Sunday by giving the Seahawks a timeout they didn't have. Luckily that fourth timeout didn't lead to a Seattle victory in the final seconds, when the Seahawks were throwing into the end zone.

Remember how it took the aforementioned Bill Leavy four years to apologize for the Super Bowl mistakes? It took replacement official Bruce Hermansen about four seconds to apologize for his mistake Sunday.

"It was my error," Hermansen told a reporter after the game.

Anyone know what Bruce Hermansen does for a living? This is where we need Al Michaels to deliver some snarky message to America that this guy, this "Bruce Hermansen" fellow, doesn't deserve to be referred to as an official. Because he's not an official, right Al? He's a retired insurance salesman from Des Moines or a truck driver from Tallahassee or maybe, who knows, he has a really critical job like TV analyst for Fox or sports writer for CBSSports.com.

Let's pile onto these replacement refs, because without them, the 2012 NFL season would be so much better!

If by "better" you mean "cancelled."


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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