“If you can see the pitcher throw the ball, see the rotation of the ball and decide how to hit the ball and do it all in .412 seconds, then you’re destined to be a major leaguer. If you can’t do that, you better find another job.”

~ Former MLB Umpire Ron Luciano ~


In the world of Major League Baseball, just to make into the league is simply a mathematical miracle. Nearly everything has to align correctly: your high school years, college years, your health, your upbringing, your family, current coaches, past coaches, religion, girlfriends and dog’s name. Well, ok … maybe not your dog’s name.

For the National Football League, on any given year, over 9,500 new potential players are entering the NFL job market (one quarter of 37,680). In addition to those players vying for jobs in the NFL there are still the current NFL players and other walk-on players. In reality only about 250 NCAA players are drafted into the NFL each year. Thus, there is only 1 in 40 odds of a college player making it to the NFL, with most being retired after three (3) years.

So with all the conundrum and consternation of the replacement referees, I give each of them a healthy dose of respect.  Being able to play at the top level of any game, let alone the National Football League, is extreme humbling. For better or for worse, each replacement referee can walk away with stories for a lifetime.  They lived and breathed the game at the highest pinnacle of life.

Sure they blew calls. But let me remind everyone that the average game has 125 plays, 22 players per play and each lasting an average of 5 to 7 seconds or less. In truth, the replacement players got many calls right. But like most in America, we really damn good at analyzing and assessing blame. Few even dare to say what’s right.

Remember, each referee was chosen; each accepted an unenviable task. The worked, they studied, the learned and called the game as they saw it. No other way of saying it: they called the game as they saw it. That’s no different than any other couch potato in America being called as an emergency umpire at the child’s game. You call it as best as you can see it. That’s all anyone can ask.

And in truth, could any of us have done better? Could any of us, as Ron Luciano might say, “…do it all in mere seconds?” If not, then we better give them a break.

Thank you replacement referees for willing to accept a challenge so few could.