The NFL Goes out of Bounds
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
President Obama and Mitt Romney should suspend their political campaigns until the one issue that affects most Americans is resolved. It’s not the economy stupid, it’s the NFL officials’ lockout. Obama and Romney should declare a bi-partisan emergency effort to restore order to the football field and calm the riots building around office water coolers.
The final play in Monday night’s game between Green Bay and Seattle revealed that not only the National Football League but the entire country is in crisis. Forget the Middle East, we have a bigger problem at home. It’s been prominent on the network news and a lead story on NPR, which has suspended its coverage of the problems of an Indian tribe that lives at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
The professional referees have been locked out by the NFL, which, like any “job creator”, is trying to save money on its lowest-paid labor. In this case, it’s the guys who make sure the game is fairly played. It’s like scrimping on the people who make tires for cars. Most significantly, the NFL wants to take away the refs’ defined-benefit pension plan and put them on a much cheaper 401K. On the theory that anyone can toss a yellow flag and blow a whistle, the NFL replaced their professionals with crews that come from Division II and III college ball. Some even come from six-man high school football.
The replacements have caused long delays and been overruled on instant replay 80% of the time when a play is given a second look. The latest football cliché is not “he got hammered” but, “On further review.” In fairness, some of the replacement refs have already been fired for their mistakes, not by the NFL, but by The Lingerie League. The league in which the players are busty women wearing bras and underpants fired one of its referee crews moonlighting for the NFL because, the Lingerie commissioner said, “We felt the officiating was not in line with our expectations.”
To give you an idea of the extreme to which the NFL has gone, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the man who stripped his public unions of the right to collective bargaining, has called for the return of the unionized refs. This is a man who would probably be glad to have the replacement refs teaching calculus in public schools, just don’t let them call a Packers game.
Late Monday night Seattle was behind on the scoreboard with only seconds left on the clock. Seattle’s Russell Wilson lofted a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. With the ball tantalizingly close, Seattle receiver Golden Tate illegally shoved a Green Bay defender in front of a national audience of millions, and a referee on the field who may be the only person in America who didn’t notice. Then Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings caught the ball for a game-ending, game-winning interception, and Tate wrapped his arms around Jennings trying to make it look like he caught it.
One referee called it a touchdown, the other an interception. On re-play it was called a “simultaneous catch”, which automatically goes to the offense. Seattle was declared the winner of the game.
The NFL has issued a ruling the length of a New York Times Op-Ed piece that essentially says, “We blew the game and we’re sticking with our call.”
Of all the convoluted rules they have, they don’t seem to have one that says when a referee doesn’t know what he’s doing, common sense should prevail.
Ironically, the fans seem to find this pageant of error as entertaining as a well-played game. It brings a level of unpredictability, like fielding a third team that’s playing in both directions at once. Whether the referees get a raise or get jammed with a 401K is being decided up in the luxury suites. One thing certain though. When this is over we’re going to have to get instant replay for six-man high school football.