If there is one thing I picked up from my father, it is an ambivalence towards organized labor and collective bargaining, aka labor unions. This doesn’t mean we automatically oppose them, but I am always a little miffed when I see a union, especially a players’ union in one of the big three sports, go on strike; I’m usually also angry at the leagues for not hashing out a deal as well. In short, it takes a lot for me, and some more for my dad, to reach the point where we say that the big business is wrong and the union needs to be paid.
On Monday, September 24th, in one of the single worst officiated games I have ever seen, coming off of one of the worst officiated weekends in the history of the NFL, the NFL lost all sympathy for its position from both my father and myself, both of whom were nearly screaming at the television that the NFL needed to pay the NFLRA (NFL Referees’ Association) whatever they wanted, and then some. It was so bad that when I ranted about it on Facebook, I nearly used inappropriate language (which I censored before posting, I’m not that crazy); and I wasn’t the only one, I saw post after post after post of people, many of whom like my family and myself, didn’t have a horse in the race, nor money on the game, complaining about how atrocious the officiating was. To top off the night, and provide much comic relief, a new meme popped out of nowhere that spread like wildfire across the Facebook universe:
As you can imagine, the NFL mustered a response in short order, saying that while the play was badly called, they could not overturn it retroactively. Now, this is true, and it would be horrendous of them to do just that, but really? That’s all they could throw together? If they had said that last night, in the heat of the moment, not only would I have understood it, I probably would have commended them for at least making a public statement and making the effort to address the situation in a timely manner. One day out, though, that exact same comment seems cowardly, as though they don’t want to acknowledge the mess they created for themselves, and the fact that they are knee deep in a substance resembling something nastier than the nastiest thing you’ve ever seen.
In the heat of the moment last night, though, some people came out, and tried to argue that game was the game, and for what it’s worth, they have a point: the bad calls went both ways, which I readily acknowledged. The problem was that all those people were pro-Seahawks (or at a minimum anti-Packers), which only makes the whole situation reek of, for lack of a better word, corruption; the bad officiating sucks, but when you’re getting trickled down upon and benefiting, you try to justify why you should still benefit. I had to finally throw that trump card down with someone to get him to stop saying how badly the Packers played and why it’s all valid, and blah blah blah.
Yes, the bad calls went both ways; I never said otherwise. Yes, the Packers got screwed, the Seahawks benefited, and the NFL is trying to contain a wildfire with a fire extinguisher right now. I realized, though, that all this talk was drawing us away from the real problem.
The NFLRA needs the fans of the game, the real fans, to stand by it. I don’t know how, but we need to. Hell, even Scott Walker, who sought to bust the power of Wisconsin unions, is saying the NFL needs to pay the NFLRA, that is how desperate people are getting. This is a cross-party issue, hell this is a cross-sport issue. If I’m David Stern, Bug Selig (who went through something similar about a decade ago), or Gary Bettman, I’m calling the head of that league’s referee association and saying “we should talk about an extension of our CBA right now,” and then call Roger Goodell and say “you’re screwing the pooch for the rest of us, you realize that, don’t you?”
The point of all this is that previous to this, a lot of people, like my dad and I, were standing the middle of the discussion; we wanted to have our cake without eating it; we watch the games, see the problems, figure the NFL will work it out. No longer, and this applies near universally; if you love the game, then you either need to side with the NFL and accept the crap fest in front of us, or side with the NFLRA and hope the NFL pays them soon.
I side with the NFLRA, and I hope the NFL gives them more than what they’re asking for. Otherwise, this is going to get really ugly.