LP Field can resonate with a collective boo from 60,000 fans on any given Sunday.
Many times those boos are directed at the referees. It's one of the most stressful jobs on the planet.
Lane Thomas, a 19-year veteran of the Southeastern Conference, offered a referee's perspective of what's happening on the field and how they deal with the pressure.
The NFL has been using replacement referees this season while the league has locked out the regular referees. The biggest gaffe of the year came on Monday night when a "Hail Mary" appeared to be intercepted by Green Bay, but was ruled a simultaneous catch between a Packers' player and Seattle's Golden Tate, who played high school football at Pope John Paul II in Hendersonville.
Caught in the middle are the refs.
"The scrutiny is definitely there. There's a lot of pressure, especially at the end of the games," said Thomas, who routinely works the "big" games in the SEC.
Thomas worked the South Carolina State-Texas A&M game last weekend after opening with games at Vanderbilt, Alabama and Tennessee.
Thomas said handling game-day decisions comes down to training.
"The game is obviously very fast in the SEC and even faster in the NFL. As an official, you are trained as you come along to make those decisions," said Thomas, who helps coach Lipscomb Academy's middle school team. "You learn to deal with the pressure. You have to keep it in perspective.
"There's a lot of hoopla, a lot of pageantry surrounding SEC and NFL football. What you have to bear in mind that once the ball is kicked off, it's just a football game. You have to put all of that out of your mind and stay focused on the job at hand."
In an imperfect world, sports officials are expected to be near-perfect.
"Our former supervisor, Bobby Gaston, used to say that officiating is the only avocation where you're supposed to start perfect and improve from there," said Thomas.
"You miss one every now and then and you hate it when that happens, but you do it to the best of your ability. If you miss it, you have to learn from it and move on."
The Nashville area has at least two replacement referees working games. Both Matt Nicks and David White have worked games all season as referee, the official wearing the white cap in charge of the crew for the game.
ESPN reported Wednesday morning that it appeared an agreement had been reached between the league and the NFLRA and regular officials could take the field as soon as Sunday.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.