We used replacement officials before. And if it had not been for 9/11 people might remember. In 2001, the NFL referees union went on strike. It last one game. After the terrorism and the consequential shutting down of NFL games, the two sides came to agreement and football continued as it had before. The NFL returned and things have stayed that way for eleven years.

But in the summer of 2012 the NFL decided to streamline. Much like the governor in Wisconsin has tried to streamline education. It was deemed that the future officials should not be given life pensions, but instead a raised present salary. The pension program was originated in 1974. Additionally, the NFL graciously offered to increase its' work force from the present 119 officials to 140, or add three teams.

What teams, you say?

NFL officiating crews, or teams, consist of seven members: a referee, umpire, line judge; side judge; back judge; field judge; and head linesman. Since there are 119 active members, that means there are 17 teams that rotate throughout the season.

The truth is many officials in other leagues make more. The average salary for NHL, MLB, and NBA officials is higher. But then, they officiate far more often. But do not feel sorry for the NFL officials. They are paid handsomely. Further, the present offer by the NFL increases their salaries significantly. For example, a first-year referee making 78,000 per year would be making 165,000 in 2018. A 10-year veteran making 139,000 per year would make 200,000 by the end of the seven year deal. Not bad.

I wonder if Gov. Walker would be willing to try those type of pay increases for teachers?

And we the fans are left with a poor excuse for officiating. It has been rough. In the Chargers-Vikings preseason game I noticed the opposing coach had to challenge two plays that were blatantly wrong. Minnesota benefited from so many bad calls it felt like the French-paid judges in figure skating. Or was it gymnastics? This must have been what happened in 1972 U.S.A. vs. U.S.S.R. in the gold medal basketball game. They had replacement Olympic officials! And yet we still lost.

The lockout has been in place since June 3rd. Talks have stalled. It is apparent that we will move forward with all the officials who are good enough to be hired, but not so good that they would scab across cloudy union lines and ruin their chances with guys like Ed Hocholi. He's an attorney, you know.

And other than Hocholi, most avid football fans couldn't name another official.

But then I realize that the locked out officials were not gods. Certainly the guy (Phil Luckett) who blew the coin toss on national television with Jerome Bettis isn't. Or the pass interference in the Giants-49ers playoff game, or Super Bowl XL, where the Seahawks were repeatedly on the wrong end of calls in their loss to the Steelers. We Vikings' fans feel terrible about the official (Armen Terzian) getting hit by a bottle in the Cowboys-Vikings playoff game that featured the Hail Mary pass involving Drew Pearson, but the non-call was ridiculous.

No, NFL officials are not all that. But after watching week one coming up, they may find a few more union supporters than just their families.

It used to be we all pulled for the hard working union guy. Nowadays it seems we prefer to point a finger. And with the way calls are going to upset fans this coming week, there may be all kind of fingers available.









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