This, I think, is the most important point in the referee lockout, and one that that's not being grasped widely enough: the referees that we're stuck with, the ones that are going to officiate actual meaningful regular season games, they are not the best referees available.
The NFL is willing to start the season with replacements, and the locked-out officials are willing to wait as long as it takes. We go into week 1 with the scabs, which might not be so bad if, after locking out the 120 best and most-experienced refs in America, the NFL gave us the second-best 120. If they employed instead the top crews from the FBS and the CFL (the NFL won't allow BCS officials as replacements). But the whole point of scabs is that those who hope to one day make the NFL the legitimate way aren't about to blow their chances by crossing a picket line. So we get small-college refs. We get a guy who was fired by the Lingerie Football League. And we get Wayne Bernier, who after working a Jets-Eagles preseason game flew home to Texas for his day job—refereeing six-a-side high school club football.
None of this is to cast any aspersions on Bernier's dedication, or his grace under pressure, or his general nice-guyness. It's just that the previous pinnacle of his career had been working an intramural flag football tournament, and now he's supposedly ready to be a head linesman in games with millions of viewers and millions of dollars on the line. And his platitudes about football being football no matter where it's played? Not quite comforting.
"You have seen it on TV and see this big field," Bernier said. "But you walk in and it's still a 100-yard field just like out at Dick Bivins Stadium. There are more people. That's all."
The NFL would like you to believe "that's all" the difference between football and Football. ("It's still football," Pete Rozelle said of replacement players in 1987.) Which sounds good when you're playing hardball at the bargaining table, and speaking in hypotheticals about some far-off future with replacement refs. But the season starts...tomorrow. It's too late to simply hope for the best.
NFL replacement official: 'You are there to do a job' [Amarillo Globe-News]