Let’s be real clear about this: This is absolutely a war of choice that the NFL has entered into with their regular, part-time officials. By seemingly all accounts, this has to do about pension money, and a relatively tiny sum at that. According to a column by Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca, the difference between the owners and the officials is around $16.5 million dollars OVER A 5 YEAR PERIOD. Let’s do some math off of that number, shall we?? That comes out to $515, 625 PER TEAM over those 5 years, or what is $103,125 per year, per team. For perspective folks, the lowest paid player on the Buffalo Bills is making nearly 4 TIMES THAT MUCH this year alone.
Say what you want about the newest & current lockout in the National Hockey League, but at least in that labor situation, there are (in the make-believe world of pro sports, anyways) real differences in how to split a pile of cash that numbers in the billions. The NFL’s stance, considering its cosmically greater wealth, stature, and hold on the public conscience, reeks of pettiness and obstinance.
The old adage about how when one says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money? This can’t be about the money, because if it were, when considering the relevant figures, that is a truly pathetic state of affairs for an organization with annual revenues over $9 billion. No, this is about winning, pure and simple.
If the owners were really concerned about any damage – perceived or real – done to their league by using replacement referees, would we really be talking about nonsense like what occurred in Seattle on Monday night? Or in Atlanta a week ago? Even about a non-touchback in a practice game in Orchard Park nearly 7 weeks ago? The answer, of course is “No”. They don’t care. And history has shown them they don’t have to.
So no, it doesn’t matter to the folks that run this league that their most prominent employees – the players & coaches – are with increasing intensity chafing at their gameday situation. Put aside the fact that the real refs get plenty of calls wrong each week. The current state of affairs has made the perception to many that ANY miscue by those now in black & white stripes would of course have been avoided if the Ed Hochulies of the world were between the hash marks. Coaches are abusing the replacements verbally (see John Fox, Jack Del Rio, Kyle Shanahan) and physically (see Bill Belichick – sorry chief, even you cannot touch an official). You think players right now are convincing themselves that they are somehow going to get screwed on a call or two during the game? That’s just human nature. And that doesn’t even cover the much-talked about “substitute teacher” effect we’re seeing with players pushing the limits of what they can get away with on the field. Nah, that doesn’t make an already ridiculously dangerous work environment even more so, does it?
Unless the owners – the Jerry Jones, Bob Krafts, Jeffrey Luries, etc... – have convinced themselves they are willing to accept whatever consequences may come from their inexplicable line in the sand – games lost, players & coaches injured/fined/suspended, avalanches of criticism – they need to end this. Even for no other reason to just get rid of it as a point of discussion. It’s too late to say that damage hasn’t been done on the field with the Packers fate on Monday. How is the reward for these fantastically rich men worth such avoidable nonsense? Drop the ego for 5 minutes, get the real refs back, and then get back to printing your own money.