The Detroit Lions are set to make history this Sunday in their season opener against the St. Louis Rams. It isn’t because of attendance or even because it is against a championship team. History will be made if the regular season referees and the NFL don’t reach an agreement because one of the replacement refs happens to be the first female ref. First. Female. Ref. Ever.
Shannon Eastin has been on the field officiating college games for the past 16 years. She has even worked some “big time” games since her last four years were in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. But that doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing for her on Sunday. In a sport and a career where men are, well, the only ones besides her, it will draw attention no matter what she does.
All of the replacement refs have been drawing criticism simply because they are replacements, not because they haven’t necessarily been doing a good job. For the most part, the officiating hasn’t been an issue in the preseason games.
Will there be an agreement reached between officials so that the “regular” refs can get back to the field before kickoff on Sunday? Or Wednesday, even, for the very first game? It looks doubtful. News leaked on Friday that both sides were close to a deal, but suddenly the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) quit negotiating and walked away from the table.
Negotiations took place again on Saturday, but with no resolution. Details emerged that make it seem like the two sides are even farther apart now than they were before. The biggest sticking points remain pension plans for refs and the length of the new contract. The NFL was close to agreeing on seven years, but then the NFLRA decided they wanted ten years to this new contract.
So back to this week’s game.
Unless a deal is hammered out quickly between the two sides, it looks like the replacements will go in and call the games. Will the fans be happy or sad over this fact? Or will they even notice and care two bits about who calls the game, as long as the calls are in their team’s favor? Will the fact that there is a woman on the field make any difference in the outcome of this game? No.
If the replacements do land the season opener, you know a few more eyes will be on Eastin as she stands on the turf in Ford Field. Having the first female ref in an NFL game is a big deal, even though she is considered a replacement and not a “regular”.
Will a woman ref make you want to tune in just for a few minutes, to see how she does? Come on, be honest here…