FOX Sports Exclusive
This is why we have an off switch - and an assistant
Memo to my friend Jeff Triplette: Turn off the microphone when you are done making your announcements. The on/off switch is there for a reason.
After the Pittsburgh Steelers scored their first touchdown during a 23-7 preseason victory over the Detroit Lions Saturday night at Heinz Field, the NFL referee left his microphone on when a review of a Dennis Dixon touchdown was called for by the replay assistant.
What followed was a torrent of expletives directed at the replay assistant, who was nice and dry in the instant replay booth, while the officials and others were getting drenched by a heavy rainstorm. Whether it was Jeff or a member of his crew, an official was heard saying, "It’s raining like this, I’ll kick his ..." followed by several expletives.
Does this incident indicate that there is a bad relationship between the officials on the field and the replay assistants in the booth? The answer is simple: NO!
Replay assistants are to officials what a lifeline is to a contestant on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” They are there to help the officials get the play right. If they do, as happened on Saturday night, the official is saved from a downgrade and the crew is considered to have gotten the play right.
In the regular season, that could make the difference in a crew calling a playoff game or even an official getting a Super Bowl assignment. That’s why the replay assistant was made part of the crew and travels with the crew all season long.
Replay assistants are trained and evaluated every game, just as the officials are. While the final decision on a replay review is made by the referee, the replay assistant is evaluated both on how he presents the TV shots for the referee to view and also on his decision-making process inside the final two minutes of each half, when he must make the decision to stop the game to review the previous play.
The replay assistant must make a standard and if he doesn’t, he won’t work the playoffs. If his performance is not good over a two-year period, he could lose his job. It is obvious the role of a replay assistant is important, yet very little is known about them.
Here is a little insight.
There are 17 replay assistants, one for each crew. Fourteen of them are retired NFL officials -- four of whom have been in the booth since replay was brought back in 1999. Of the trio without NFL official experience, one is a former NFL supervisor of officials, another worked in the officiating department for years and the final one was a highly respected referee in the Big Ten before coming off the field to take the replay position.
Certainly, not many people would know they are members of a union and have a collective bargaining agreement. Their rights are protected much like the officials themselves, who have their own CBA. Some may think it is silly for officials and replay assistants to have unions and CBAs. I don’t. Without the officials, and now the replay assistants, there is no game.
What you had Saturday night was a frustrated official who was standing in a downpour as a play was being reviewed in a preseason game that meant nothing in the standings. A microphone was left on and it picked up language that, like it or not, is part of the workplace environment that encompasses all sports.
You want to capture sounds of the games by putting microphones on players, coaches and referees? This is what you might get from time to time. Ask Rex Ryan. It doesn’t mean a coach has a bad relationship with his team or that officials don’t like replay assistants.
Nevertheless, Jeff, please remember to turn off your microphone. It makes you and the crew look foolish and there are certainly more important things we could be talking about.