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Hagerstown area residents say replacement refs were ruining game

September 27, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Stotelmyer
Stotelmyer

Hagerstown resident Harold King said he loves watching football but that the replacement referees in the National Football League were damaging the league’s credibility.

“The Lingerie Football League will be more popular if they keep this up,” he said. “People will watch less NFL games as the refs get worse.”

King, 33, voiced his displeasure Wednesday with the replacement referees being used by the NFL. They were hired after the NFL and the NFL Referees Association could not reach a collective bargaining agreement this summer.

King and other area football fans can rest easy.

Late Wednesday night, the NFL and the union tentatively agreed to an eight-year deal to end the impasse. Regular officials will be back on the field beginning with Thursday night's game in Baltimore between the Ravens ant the Cleveland Browns.

King blamed the league for the situation that affected the first three weeks of the regular season.

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“They can afford to pay the officials,” he said. “These (replacement) officials don’t know what they’re doing.”

Lou Smith, 66, of Frederick, Md., agreed with King about where the blame lay.

“The NFL doesn’t want to pay the guys that they need, so they’re trying to get by cheap,” he said. “These refs are making bad calls for both teams in every game.”

Smith and King said they still watch NFL games, but they might watch fewer games if the situation continueds.

Among 14 people who spoke with a reporter Wednesday about the situation, eight people said they might watch fewer NFL games if the problem persists, another four said they would watch as much football as they currently do, and two said they would be less likely to watch it altogether.

Heather Weschler, 33, of Hagerstown said she is less likely to watch NFL games if the regular refs don’t return.

“It’s less exciting for everybody to watch if there are constant blown calls,” she said. “They are affecting the outcome of the season, and the refs don’t seem to know the rules as clearly as they should.”

Hagerstown resident Frankie Russ said he would not stop watching football because he has a “love and passion” for it, but he acknowledged that the league could lose ratings if it does not fix the situation.

“People will eventually get fed up with it, and the players are getting upset,” Russ, 21, said. “The replacement officials seem to have no eyes to understand the physics of the game.”

Among the controversial calls in Week 3 of the NFL season was a game-ending touchdown that appeared to be an interception during the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, resulting in a win for the Seahawks.

Lewis Wallace, 42, of Hagerstown said the main problem with the replacement referees is inconsistency.

“There are too many calls that shouldn’t be made but are made, and there are too many calls that should be made but aren’t made,” he said. “The officials are trying their best, but we need the real referees back. A lot of people are turning away from the sport.”

A major issue between the two sides was  the pension plans for the referees, who make an average of about $150,000 a year, according to published reports. It would cost the league approximately $3 million, or about $100,000 per team, to close the gap between the two sides. The league is a $9.5 billion industry, based on figures from the 2011 season.

Joe Beeman, 34, of Cascade, said both sides are to blame for the problem.

“The owners are being foolish enough to think they can begin the season without having competent referees to do the job, and I blame the union for being foolish enough for trying to break the league over money,” he said. “The replacement refs have done a horrible job, and it’s changing the integrity of the game.”

Joe Stotelmyer, 27, of Hagerstown, said that the continuing use of replacement officials damages the legitimacy of each game.

“The season’s pretty shot until they get the refs back,” he said. “The NFL is making enough money, so they should pay the refs.”

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