The fans of Baltimore roared when referee Gene Steratore and his crew walked onto the field for Thursday's NFL game between the Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.
I imagine similar reactions will be held Sunday when referees step onto the 13 other fields where games are being played. Monday in Dallas will probably be more of the same.
Since it was announced that the officials agreed to a new deal, the reactions from players, coaches and fans has been exactly what I expected. Everyone's glad to have the regular refs back, which is all fine and dandy. The interim referees were not up to par, as I said in my column earlier this week.
But no one (as far as I've seen) has at least publicly come out and at least thanked these replacement referees for at least going out there and allowing us to have some form of football.
That, to me, is blasphemy. These are guys who were getting harassed and ridiculed everywhere they went despite doing (probably) the best they probably could. Again, these were guys from the lower Division I levels, or DII or DIII, and while they're similar levels, they're not exactly the same. These refs were basically just thrown in and told to do the job of a highly trained referee, something that's not easy to do.
You're going to have some mistakes. That was inevitable. It was also inevitable that some mistakes were going to change the outcomes of games. That's what happens when you put yourself in the situation the NFL and the officials did.
And it's not their fault they were pressed into service so quickly. They've got the commissioner's office, the officials' union, and the main DI conferences to blame. The first two for not reaching a deal in time, and the DI conferences for not allowing their best referees to work on Sunday (I can't blame them for that, though).
In a nutshell, we've treated the replacement referees like trash. Sure, I'm not saying we needed to offer them jobs in the NFL as officials, but they deserve some semblance of a thank you.
If I'm the only one who says this, so be it. I'd rather blaze my own trail and know what I'm doing rather than follow everyone else to the tar pit of death, like so many people seem to do these days.
But I'll say this: Thank you, replacement referees, for allowing us to have football for the first few weeks of the season. You may have been in over your heads, and you might have blown some calls, but I don't fault you for at least trying. Things might not have worked out, but I think you understand that. Best of luck to you in whatever refereeing venture life may take you.
Page 2 of 2 - I guess this is the way America has become anymore. We don't appreciate the good things in life. We like to chastise people when they do something wrong, but don't care to compliment them when they do something good.
And that's just sickening.
Alix Kunkle is the News Editor of the Leesville Daily Leader in Leesville, La. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.