Replacement ref Wayne Bernier making the transition from six-man football to the NFL
The NFL season is set to officially begin on Wednesday night, and the replacement officials are coming with it. If you watched any part of the 64 preseason games across the NFL over the past month you have more than likely heard some sort of discussion about replacement referees. There have been some compliments, even more complaints and a lot of nervousness about people like Wayne Bernier, who is making the transition from working six-man high school football games to the NFL.
“You have seen it on TV and see this big field,” Bernier told the Amarillo Globe-News. “But you walk in and it’s still a 100-yard field just like out at Dick Bivins Stadium (where Amarillo high school teams play). There are more people. That’s all.”
There are also higher stakes and a lot more pressure. Giving a high school coach a headache isn’t quite the same as giving Jim Harbaugh a headache. All officials make bad calls, but the backlash will be even more severe when the replacement refs make mistakes because of the preexisting notions many players, coaches and fans already have about them. Despite that, Bernier says he has felt very welcome.
“You learn they all are human beings,” he explained. “They are in this spotlight all the time, but they are just human. And they are class acts, like Andy Reid. We all know he just lost his son, and there is emotion there. And then most of the players have been cordial. You hear every once in a while a ‘Oh, that’s why you are here’ comment. But most of them slap you on the butt and say, ‘Good job.’”
At the end of the day, the officials can only call it like they see it and do the best they can. Those butt slaps and “good jobs” may be tougher to come by in the regular season, but that’s the nature of the beast in professional athletics. For people like Bernier, looking at it like just another game of six-on-six probably isn’t a bad idea.