This is from a column by The Seattle Times' Larry Stone about MLB's replacement umpires in 1979:
That's just one of innumerable disputes that erupted during the three-month walkout by major-league umpires, a work stoppage that began in spring training and didn't end until May 18 -- roughly six weeks into the regular season. Yes, I know that players having disputes with umpires is hardly a new phenomenon - just like NFL players have always griped about officials' calls. But what I found fascinating in doing some research on the 1979 baseball dispute is how much it paralleled the current situation in the NFL, which reached critical mass on Monday night in Seattle.
Great piece from Larry, and you should read it. Just a couple of points I'd like to make about this:
One, it's possible that the umpiring/refereeing isn't as terrible as we think. The top officials make mistakes all the time, and we (usually) forgive them because we think they're the best and even the best make mistakes. But when the not-best make mistakes, we tend to think none of those mistakes would have been made by the best.
Which obviously isn't true, if you think about it.
And two, there really isn't a huge difference between the best officials and the second-best officials. I think you could replace Major League Baseball umpires with Triple-A umpires and National Football League referees with top college referees, and notice no difference at all (from a distance; insiders might be able to tell). But when you replace top officials with third- and fourth-tier officials, you're going to have some issues. And that's what has happened, both in 1979 and 2012.