Fans wanted football fix, cared little about real refs
Outrage was over poor officiating, not NFL's union-busting tactics
Published: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 4:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 4:01 p.m.
The real NFL refs, that is to say the unionized NFL refs, are back and all is right with the world, right?
The sensible thing would be to move forward (one of the leading cliches in sports these days, and in the real world, too) and not dwell on the past, right?
But some of us can't move on quite yet. Some of us need to clarify certain points about the past week, actually just one day last week.
On Tuesday, print and electronic journalism had a collective nervous breakdown disguised as adrenaline-fueled, well-informed civic-mindedness, a knee-jerk reaction to what was perceived as vital breaking news while presenting the botched call of a football game as if “War of the Worlds” had commenced and Martians were invading Earth.
The story was so big, so “important,” that it instantly became too big and too important for mere sports types to deal with. This was a story of national, even international significance, and it demanded that real reporters and real editors and real pundits (and talk radio hosts and bloggers and the whole modern media menagerie) get on it, pronto.
Even the president of the United States and the Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees opined, which might indicate that they have nothing better to do because things in the real world are just swell. Yeah, if only.
About the media coverage Tuesday morning, following Monday night's presumed disaster of a nationally televised football game decided by an embarrassing, clearly incompetent ruling, several newspapers, including this one, and more than a few websites called the refs responsible as “rookies.”
Well, yeah, they're rookies in the sense that this is their first year working NFL games, but they were, more accurately, replacements. The NFL plucked them from the lower echelons of college football and, in the case of Monday night's game, effectively put them in front of tens of millions of red-blooded American television viewers.
More accurately, and more to the point, the rookie replacement refs were scabs. They temporarily took the jobs of the legitimate refs, the unionized refs, who, contrary to several media reports, were not on strike but had been locked out by NFL ownership because they didn't kowtow to the obscenely wealthy league's cheapskate demands on a new contract. More accurately still, the corporate bosses of the NFL, who rake in billions in profits, were hell-bent on squeezing relative pennies out of the underpaid, under-trained and much-maligned unionized officials who have the unenviable task of keeping a semblance of order in a sport that is inherently chaotic, fast and ultra-violent.
Then there was the matter of the media framing the comments of President Obama, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as if these politicians (sakes alive, even the traditionally union-busting Republicans!) actually supported the real refs, their outrage over the incompetence of the scab refs just too much for any God-fearing American to bear.
But all Obama said was that the NFL and the real refs needed to come to an agreement ASAP. Ditto, Romney. Translation: Nobody cares about your little labor dispute, nobody cares about freezing retirement benefits for part-time, essentially blue-collar workers. What we care about, what America cares about, is football, and when the isolated spotlight of Monday night football reveals a humiliating travesty, well, America itself is humiliated, and that's just not right, that's just not patriotic.
Not exactly a pro-labor endorsement from either political party.
As for Ryan, well, he really elevated the discussion to intellectual heights. He compared the scab refs to the current administration's handling of the economy. Huh?
Actually, you'd think the so-called free-market types would castigate NFL owners as socialists in capitalist clothing (what with revenue sharing and a common draft in which the weakest get to pick first) and promote deregulated football games, contests without any nerdy interference of rules interpreters and geeky enforcers whatsoever, unionized or scab. You'd think the free-market types would want NFL games in which a ball was tossed onto the field and the players sorted things out themselves.
You'd think a slogan freedom-loving businessmen and politicians would embrace would be: “We don't need no stinking refs!”
Robert Rubino can be reached at email@example.com.
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