Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

No substitute for the real thing, or referee

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There is no substitute for talent.

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– Aldous Huxley

The NFL has resolved its dispute with its referees, and everyone should be happy today.

Well, maybe not everybody. They love the replacement refs in Seattle, but the rest of us will be content because order has been restored, and life has proved again that replacements rarely work out.

It’s true in my business.

I used to work for a guy who wrote a newspaper column every day. While some of us younger sorts questioned these contributions to small-town journalism, we knew we would eventually catch a break when he went on vacation. That, however, was when he brought in “replacement” columnists. (Don’t say it.)

For a week or two, he lined up a rotation of community sorts who took a stab at imitating Mark Twain by writing about their businesses, their thoughts on American foreign policy or their house pets.

When our boss returned from his time off, refreshed and invigorated, we were glad to have him.

Life is that way.

Take replacement schoolteachers, a noble mission fraught with peril.

No matter how much we all disliked a particular teacher, he or she was the devil we knew, and the sub was always an unknown, which is why everyone was more comfortable with just sitting in class and watching a movie.

It’s usually the same with other replacements, from plumbers to air traffic controllers to pharmacists and hair dressers.

Or barbers.

Many a man has returned to his hair-cutter because the previous day’s substitute left one side a bit shaggy.

And then there are Sunday mornings. You might find your regular preacher a bit dull or uninspiring, but let him take a week off and leave you with his replacement, who doesn’t understand that the clock was placed in the sanctuary for a reason, and you will be praying for your pastor’s quick return.

That reminds me of this:

It seems a preacher was making a point during one Sunday sermon on the failings of humanity.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect woman,” the preacher said. “Anybody present who has ever known a perfect woman, stand up.”

Nobody stood up.

“Those who have ever known a perfect man, stand up.”

Slowly in the back, one elderly gentleman gradually got to his feet.

The preacher was a bit surprised.

“Are you honestly saying you knew an absolutely perfect man?” he asked, somewhat amazed.

“Well now, I didn’t know him personally,” replied the old man, “but I have heard a great deal about him. He was my wife’s first husband.”

(With that, let us say a prayer this morning for replacements everywhere.)


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