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Spike Eskin: Replacement Refs Start Season 1-0

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By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Much like any NFL team’s season is not decided by the result of their first game, the story of the replacement officials does not have its final chapter written after just one night.

But if you’re scoring at home, the replacement refs, like the Cowboys, are undefeated.

I don’t profess to know who is closer to “right” in the NFL’s negotiations with the on-field officials union. There are many moving parts, and it’s never as simple as “they’ve got the money, they should just settle it right away.” Being a union member myself, I always respect the right of the worker to get what he or she thinks is fair.

I can say with relative certainty however,  that the NFL Referee Association is in a worse bargaining position than they were at this time on Wednesday.

CBS Sports reported earlier this week that the locked out officials are willing to sit out for months to get what they want. With the replacements having had a less than stellar preseason, the officials union must have been hoping for more of the same in the nationally televised opener. Confusion, big blown calls that may cost a team the game, even just appearing nervous, could have all sent the country’s football fans into a tizzy, demanding the “real officials” be brought back as soon as possible. Didn’t happen.

There were calls, that upon further review, looked like they went the wrong way. Most notably a missed defensive holding call that should have gone the Giants way in the first half, and a botched clipping call (it wasn’t clipping). There was some immediate outrage on social media of the “see, that’s why we can’t have replacement refs!” variety. But if we’re being fair, when have you not watched an NFL game, with the usual refs, and not believe they blew a few calls during the game? They’re human, they’re judgment calls, and they’re going to miss some of them. The key is to make those times the exception instead of the rule, and to limit the damage, and they did just that.

To be sure, this is not over. There is plenty of time for this to be a disaster. The officials last night were reportedly a bit of an all-star team, with the best refs from the preseason being put together for the national stage. They won’t have that advantage this weekend, when there are 15 games to staff. But as long as the focus stays mostly on the players, and less on the guys in the black and white stripes, people will slowly forget they’re not the usual officials.

The NFL is better off with its normal officials, and the game will be better when that’s the case. But if last night was any indication, until that time, the game will be alright.

Follow Spike Eskin on Twitter @SpikeEskin.