Hi. My name is Joe. Like, "Your average Joe," "Joe the Plumber," etcetera. You don't know me, and there's a reason for that. I'm what's known as a replacement columnist; think of me as a pen pal.
Mr. Peterson is currently embroiled in negotiations with corporate over his salary, and they locked him out of his office until they get everything ironed out. I don't know how long this will last, but don't worry, I'm here. To avoid confusion, I should tell you that terms of Mr. Peterson's contract dictate his column mug must appear in this space, but don't be fooled, this one is all Joe. Some kind of byline would've been nice though. However, like all the other replacements out there, far be it from me to complain.
Now, before you head to the funny pages or the sports section, give me a chance here.
We replacements - some of our kind were called scrubs during the NFL strike back in the '80s - are getting a bad rap because of what happened in pro football this season.
As you all know, the "real" refs - the ones who apparently never made mistakes on the field - were, until this week, locked out like Mr. Peterson is. They wanted even more money for working one day a week and the NFL wasn't having any of it. So all the games before this week were been presided over by replacement officials, who I must say did a pretty darned good job.
Media will tell you otherwise. Those pompous coaches and overpaid athletes will tell you otherwise. They believe the replacements had no control over games. Are you kidding me? They had control; they were throwing flags all the time - sometimes when there wasn't even a penalty! That, my friends, is control.
And then there are the fans, who were all over the replacements from Day One. These people aren't perfect at their jobs, either, especially the ones who consider opening two tabs in Firefox at the same time multitasking.
Mistakes, we made a few.
The 49ers' head coach got some extra timeouts and challenges he maaayyyybe shouldn't have gotten last weekend against the Vikings (who were flagged just once, thank you very much). And then there was Monday night's game where a couple of refs made different calls on the game-deciding touchdown - one signaling an interception for Green Bay, the other a touchdown for Seattle. OK, that was bad, I admit. But expecting replacement refs to nail every call at this level is like telling a kid who just shed his training wheels to drive a Harley.
There were a few other gaffes this season as well, some pass interference and ball placement issues, but why cry over spilt Gatorade, I say. We're not perfect. We're replacements, we don't have to be.
Besides, there are RPs (replacement people) all around you, you just don't know it. And we're all here to serve. You're reading this, aren't you? Like this column is such a big step down from Mr. Peterson's. Some might even prefer my style over his. Ever think about that? And I come cheap. You're not going to see me demanding more money or better equipment. The nice thing about us is we're reliable because we open the door when opportunity knocks. Heck, we wait by the door. In this economy, we don't take any work for granted.
And you shouldn't take us for granted, either. What would happen if all the doctors in your hospital went on strike or were locked out? What, are people gonna stop getting sick? Heck no. The patients would keep on coming in, and who would they turn to? Boom! Replacement docs. They might be a little shaky at first, maybe fumble a scalpel or gag at the first sign of blood, but they'll get the job done.
What about a pilots' strike? Still gotta get from Point A to Point B. With no "experienced" pilots, the world once again would be looking to us, and crop dusters and flying tour guides would find themselves in the cockpits of jet liners.
No matter the field, being a replacement is a thankless job - we never know when a job will open up and when it does we get treated like the dog that keeps messing on the carpet and chewing up shoes if we don't live up to certain standards. You're never as good as the people your filling in for claim to be, and every move you make is controversy waiting to happen. Not fair. Not fair 'tall.
Now that everything is settled in the NFL, you can go back to cursing the "real" officials - remember, refs needed glasses long before sports leagues started calling on replacements. And by the way, if the "real" zebras are so great, we wouldn't even have booth reviews now would we?
Maybe these replacements were not the varsity squad, maybe they were in over their heads and intimidated easily, maybe the game was too fast for them, maybe the rules too complex, but they tried. Cut them some slack.
Cut all replacements some slack. You made it through this column didn't you?