You don’t have to be a football fan to appreciate the folly of the recent unpleasantness between the people who own the money printing press that is the National Football League and its referees and other game officials.
The refs had been locked out of their jobs by the NFL owners since the beginning of the league’s “preseason” exhibition games and for the first few weeks of the regular season. In their place, the league hired replacement officials.
These gentlemen did their best, but their best was not nearly good enough. Terrible calls, misunderstood rules and general incompetence were the rule rather than the exception.
The culmination came Monday night when the Green Bay Packers had a five-point lead over the Seattle Seahawks with just a couple of minutes left in the game. On their final drive, the Seahawks won the game, benefiting from a phantom roughing-the-passer call that negated a Green Bay interception, a terrible pass interference call and finally, another interception — this one in the end zone — that was called a touchdown.
The NFL was clearly embarrassed, and the commissioner and owners at last came to their senses and gave in to most of the refs’ demands. The result was that the players weren’t the only professionals on the field Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns played the Baltimore Ravens.
Why did the owners think they could get away with it?
That’s easy. They always had before. The prime example was in 1987 during a 24-day players strike. Three weeks of the season were canceled, then the league trotted out “replacement players.”
The play was inferior, but the fans didn’t seem to care who was wearing the uniforms. The regular players found that they missed those big paychecks, and their resolve — along with their strike — crumbled three weeks later. They went back to work, leaving no question about whether the NFL was an owners’ league or a players’ one.
As it turned out, the players association filed a lawsuit and won its case in 1989. The players won some concessions, but the owners obviously believed they could prevail over the refs.
The current owners were not only greedy, but stupid. Before the settlement, the New York Times did the math, and discovered that giving in to all the officials’ demands would have cost the league about $3.2 million.
That sounds like a lot until you figure that the NFL’s overall revenue each year is about $3.2 billion.
The NFL — like many other employers — made the mistake of discounting the importance of experience and talent. Still, it’s nice to have the real refs back where they belong.