Commentary | High school referees at a high school game? What a concept

jlembo@bradenton.comSeptember 21, 2012 

The National Football League nearly placed a game in the hands of a fan last week.

Literally.

Brian Stropolo is a replacement referee who was supposed to officiate last Sunday's New Orleans Saints-Carolina Panthers game.

One problem: As a picture on his Facebook pace proved, Stropolo is a pretty big Saints fan.

Consequently, the NFL decided to replace him (pun intended) with someone else.

Good thing, too. Imagine the mess the league would have had to clean up had this information been uncovered after the fact, especially if the Saints had won the game on a questionable call.

Panthers flagged for roughing the passer prior to the ball being snapped -- again.

Such a close call, however, further illustrates how the dispute between the league and its officials is sullying perhaps the greatest sports league on earth.

And it reminds us how lucky we are such a work stoppage hasn't trickled down to the local level.

Say what you want and concoct all the theories you can about high school officials, but when you head to the prep stadium of your choice tonight, understand you are going to be see a qualified officiating crew.

Can any of us say we'll see such a thing Sunday? Or that we saw such a thing during Thursday's Carolina Panthers-New York Giants game?

Right now, no.

High school officials are trained to officiate high school games. They are schooled on the high school rulebook. They know how many yards to measure

off each penalty called in a high school game and know a play is ruled dead as soon as the ball carrier's knee touches the ground.

Do the replacement guys know the NFL rules?

Part of the problem is officials are being pulled from all ranks of the sporting world, from the lower rungs of college football to, in some cases, high school.

High school officials should officiate high school games; pro officials should do pro games. Instead, we get a referee telling Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to step it up because McCoy is on his fantasy team.

Shameful.

Disagreeing with an official, referee or umpire is the American way. Sports wouldn't be fun if everyone agreed on every call on the field or court.

But if you're heading to a game tonight, keep this in mind: You'll be seeing the right men officiate the right game.

They may miss a call, they may miss a play, they may not see the burly lineman continually bear hug that quick defensive end.

But it's a high school crew officiating a high school game.

It's the way it should be.

Come Sunday, bring on the farce.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2097. Follow him on Twitter @JohnLembo1878.

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