NFL Replacements and Religious Devotion to Ideology Collide

I got into such a big argument last night, you guys. I was just minding my own business at my home The Spot, watching the Green Bay/Seattle “clash” (I put it in quotations because JESUS CHRIST WHAT A TERRIBLE GAME) and eating a burger when a debate opened up.

In this corner, your hero, a dick joke enthusiast with a career life record of 121-122-3, representing the merits of having NFL officials who know the rules and can actually pontificate upon them (note: DOES NOT MEAN URINATE OR DEFICATE; don’t need an “Alanis Morrisette – Ironic” issue happening here), a believer in the idea that sometimes the people who know what they’re talking about actually do know what they’re talking about, the FOOL-ah from Mis-SOULA, MAGIC SAM!

And in the far corner, wearing dark jeans with white tennis shoes, an unfortunate mustache, and a face that looks alternately like the surface of the moon and your correspondent’s ballsack, neighbor to your correspondent, The Jolly Rodger Bill-Dodger, JIM, SOME GUY IN A BAR!

The Bunk has asked me on numerous occasions why I insist upon arguing with the mouth-breathers in online comments sections and message boards. The fact is, I enjoy it. I like revving them up, making them spin, pissing them off to a point where their points get lost in translation because they’re just so damn angry. But last night, it was something different.

You see, I learned something last night. And this something I learned put the entire NFL referee situation into perspective for me. Inadvertently, it put everything else in perspective too; from politics to team rooting interests.

Let me back up. We’ve discussed the problems with NFL replacement officials, the need for — if you’ll excuse a clumsily-created metaphor — a rocket scientist to build you a fucking rocket. Everyone knows the replacement refs are garbage; coaches, players and fans all know it, and even the league knows it (despite not wanting to admit any culpability in the situation).  Tonight, the issue was brought into stark relief, as Seattle was awarded a touchdown it did not earn at the end of regulation time, seemingly because the referee watching the action could not decide whether it was a touchdown or not. 

This is par for the course in a scab-reffed NFL season; generally there are 4-5 calls per season that could conceivably get a ref lynched in the streets; we’re seeing 4-5 per week now, including calls that are deciding games (the touchdown last night) or have a chance to decide games (week one’s extra Seahawks time out comes to mind, as do the two additional challenges awarded to Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers in week 3). And that’s without mentioning the obviously-blown calls we’ve seen in each and every game, from blatantly-missed holding calls to ignored illegal contact/defensive holding/pass interference (the details of each seemingly lost on The Replacements).

All of this is before we consider the dirtiest player in the NFL, Cortland Finnegan of the Rams, bragging about the replacement refs letting him get away with things by not enforcing the rules.

And yet still, somehow, there are those who are blinded enough by their anti-union sentiment to completely ignore the product on the field — or what’s left of it — in favor of making sure those evil and terrible unions don’t get their way.

Because making any sort of argument now requires a full-disclosure of anything politically related and/or motivated, I humbly submit this: I’m not a pro-union guy. I’m also not an anti-union guy. I’ve never had a family member (that I know of) work within or against a union, and I don’t believe that all issues with workplaces should be solved by forming a union and collectively bargaining for rights. I don’t believe that, and I’ve never believed that.

Now, with regards to this issue… it’s become abundantly clear that the referees who have been locked out actually do have a skillset that is both unique and in-demand, and as such they have the power at the negotiating table. Is Steve Young correct to say that the league “doesn’t care,” as fans will still watch? Yes, he is. For now. But if you watched last night’s “contest” between the Seahawks and Packers, and you think this sort of officiating is acceptable over the long-term, and you think fans are going to keep tuning in to see games decided not by athleticism, ability and poise, but by a bunch of Social Studies teachers in stripes, you are sorely mistaken.

And that’s where this idea of dogmatic devotion to ideology has crippled America’s Passion, professional football. You see, there are still some out there like my neighbor in the unfortunate white shoes/dark jeans combo who believe, above all else, that stopping the unions is the most important part of the equation. He entered the discussion/argument from the viewpoint that all unions are bad, anti-capitalist and anti-American, and should be destroyed, because the free market will solve every issue. And when you enter a discussion from an angle of intractable dogma, there is no amount of reason or logic that will change your mind.

What you saw in Seattle last night? That’s example A of the free market solving issues. It boils down to this: find someone to do the job cheaper, regardless of experience, and everything will be fine for your bottom line. And if things are fine for your bottom line, then things are fine. Full stop.

Except that now we have Facebook. We have bloggers (hey, that’s us! Hi Mom!). We have “#thingsbetterthanreplacementrefs” and “#Whattonamethebadcallinseattle” trending on Twitter. We have the whole wide fucking world, from the Arabs burning American flags in Egypt to frat boys in dorms in Toledo, knowing that the NFL is a giant fucking farce.

And for what? For $63,000 per team in revenue, per season. And for that $63k, the owners get:

-competent officiating.

-safety of the players, worth a league-minimum of $250,000 per year. EACH.

-protection of the brand name — NFL — that each and every owner bought in to when deciding to purchase an NFL team.

-peace of mind that you’re watching a game that isn’t fixed, isn’t pre-determined, and is going to be settled on the field, not by middle school science teachers — again, excuse the metaphor — attempting to create a space-worthy rocket.

Instead, you have Packers all-pro linebacker Clay Matthews tweeting and facebooking Roger Goodell’s office phone number and encouraging fans to call him with complaints. How is this worth less than $63,000, exactly?

And while you think on these weighty happenings, consider how differently the Green Bay fans in Wisconsin might be looking at their own union situation. Something tells me they see the point of collective bargaining by now.

Because when it comes right down to it, you want a rocket scientist building your rocket.

Even if he costs a little more.

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