The Official View

A true professional official in all of the major sports leagues' are the ones that fly entirely under the radar. He must be as confident in his abilities as an official as a star athlete is in his own playing skills. His decisions must always be decisive and consistent and above all, he must possess both a very small ego while at the same have very thick skin.

Monday morning is just another day in the life of most practicing attorneys; court appearances, depositions, trial preparation, appointments with clients, mediations and working out settlement agreements with opposing council are just some of the many duties performed by attorneys throughout the country on a daily basis. Most responsible attorneys actually spend numerous hours prior to these actions preparing for these events. To an outsider, these actions could well appear rather mundane when viewed, but to the people who are directly involved in these cases, the results are of extreme importance.

Any person facing a potential life and death or life altering situation, would unquestionably insist upon the very best representation possible; a Dan Webb, Roy Black or a Vincent Bugliosi and would never even remotely consider an individual, who devoted less than twenty-five days a year to the legal profession!

Would you, the reader, ever so much as think of hiring a part time surgeon to perform radical surgery or for that matter any type of surgical procedure on a family member? Of course not and yet the National Football League, since its' inception, has allowed the outcome of many games in this multi-billion dollar industry to be determined, not by the athletes who have spent their entire life developing their skills or the coaches who work anywhere from eighty to ninety hours a week preparing for each individual game, but rather have literally put the game into the hands of a group of individuals whose principle occupation is not the game of football!

If the Chargers are unsuccessful and finish out of the playoff hunt this season, it could well affect the lives of the entire coaching staff, key players and front office personnel, but it will have absolutely zero impact on the billable hours generated from Ed Hochuli's St Louis law practice.

Sure Ed Hochuli wasn't the first official to have ever blown a call during a critical stage in a game; its' almost commonplace over the course of a long season, but the real problem that I see today, is the NFL is allowing their officials to serve two masters.

Depending on their position on the field and level of experience, an NFL official can earn anywhere from seventy to one hundred and twenty thousand dollars per season and unlike their counterparts in MLB, the NBA and the NHL, are the only officials in professional sports not to be employed as full-time employees.

Granted an NFL official, working a maximum of five pre season games, sixteen regular season, three playoff, the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, will still officiate in less than one-eight of the games of their baseball and one quarter of the games of their hockey and basketball counterparts.

I firmly believe that the NFL, beginning with the 2009 season should implement a policy where all crew chiefs (referees) are to be employed on a fulltime basis within the league and depending on their years of service should be compensated at a minimum, base-rate of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year.

Crew chiefs that choose not commit to full time employment within the league will be given the single option of either accepting a lesser position within the crew or being terminated.

Commencing with the start of training camp, each of the sixteen crew chiefs will spend a week in no less than two training camps where he will work along side local and young developing officials under consideration for consideration for employment within the league.

Throughout the entire regular season, the crew chief duties would be well defined. Monday's would become self-scouting day, where the referee would review the work of each member of his crew and prepare a detailed report for the league on his crew's performance. On Tuesday, the crew chief would prepare a similar study for the league, evaluating the work of another NFL crew. On Wednesday and Thursday, the crew chief will review the last two previous game tapes on next week's game opponents. He will look for offensive, defensive and special team tendencies. He will also prepare for each member of his crew his own personal check-list, along with a detailed evaluation of the crew member's last week performance for the purpose of review. Provided that his work is complete, Friday is an official day of rest. Saturday is a travel day, tape review with the rest of the crew and stadium walk-through when possible. Sunday is game day, the culmination of a week worth of preparedness and coordination.

Will the actions proposed to you today eliminate bad calls in future games? Hardly, but what it will do is create a system from which the league can significantly cut down on the margin of error and provide to the public with a more creditable product.

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