Saturday, September 8, 2012

NFL replacement officials. The next chapter

There's been no recent word on any progress between the NFL and their regular on-field officials hammering out an agreement. Like most labor/management contract issues, both sides always seem to wait until the eleventh hour before they get serious. The car industry, truckers, teachers, cops, firefighters -- you name it -- and while knowing what's at stake, they'll typically twiddle their collective thumbs for months as the clock ticks down. As it becomes apparent they need to do SOMETHING, often both sides will attempt to spin their cases through the media -- while still accomplishing nothing. Finally, at the last second, it's like OMG, we need to get serious.

To which I say -- well, no kidding -- and just what in the hell have they been doing, or not, for the last few months, when they knew damn good and well this problem wasn't going away by itself? Instead of conducting rational and reasonable negotiations, compromising, and ironing matters out in a timely manner -- they sit around like potted plants. To boot, many times it seems as if the companies and unions can't seem to look beyond their own selfish interests, and are totally oblivious -- or don't care -- to what effects their actions, or inactions, may have on so many others.

There's even times when they break off negotiations because one or both sides accuse the other of being totally unreasonable. Reality check. There is never, repeat NEVER, a valid excuse for walking away from the baragaining table. There will be disagreements, and the sides may be far apart in their initial proposals, but everybody knows a compromise is inevitable, so shouldn't they sit there haggling until they figure it out? Seems logical enough.

Whether it's people depending on the auto industry, truckers delivering their goods, students, parents, average citizens counting on emergency services when they need them, or even sports fans who crave the games -- as the clock winds down in contract negotiations, the people that should matter most get ignored. Tick, tick, tick......

Which brings me back to the NFL replacement officials. It's common knowledge that the only people that found them acceptable were the NFL honchos, and the scab officials themselves. The fans didn't like it, and certainly the media held them up to the ridicule they earned with some of their on-field follies. Yet that was only the preseason. It didn't really matter. Most assumed both sides would quit posturing and come to their senses to hammer something out before the real world kicked in. That DOES matter.

Look at it this way. Would you want a cop like Barney Fife coming to your home if someone was trying to break into it? A firefighter that couldn't hook up a hose to a hydrant if your house was in flames? I don't think so.

That's pretty much what the NFL players are looking at with the replacement officials. Because now, the regular season is here and it counts. Things speed up. The strongest have survived as the rosters have been trimmed to the best of the best. No more try outs, or players wearing "untouchable" red jerseys in practice. All that stuff is gone and it's showtime. The intensity level ratchets up and players will be out there flying around hitting each other -- hard. It's real.

Yes, the official 2012 opening act of the NFL season showcased the Cowboys visiting the NY Giants a few days ago. It appeared like the replacement refs did a credible job. No outrageous bone-headed calls to speak of.

But remember, that was an extremely big deal. National TV. A showcase event. It's quite likely the NFL put together the best crew of zebras they could to officiate that game.

When it comes time for the "lesser games", as in the Detroit Lions hosting the St. Louis Rams tomorrow, amongst several others, the league will have to trot out the other scabs -- the same ones that garnered so much attention with their Keystone Kop routines during the preseason. Because that's all they've got. And that could have some very strange, not to mention dire consequences.

No doubt about it, Don Knotts was hilarious, but as one who has gone on many cop-escorted motorcycle rides to benefit various charities over the years, yours truly would have been quite uneasy with Deputy Fife leading the pack. Just one mistake can come back to bite a lot of other people in a hurry.

I suspect the NFL players and coaches feel much the same way with the replacement officials.

The charades need to stop, and everybody back to the bargaining table. Bring in cots, sleeping bags, catered food, port-a-johns, whatever, but lock them up 24/7 until they work out a deal. Cell phones and laptops allowed, but no shower facilities. After 2-3 days stewing in the same clothes, I flat-out guarantee they'd reach an agreement.

Which is exactly what they should have been thinking about months ago.....


  1. John: You were obviously tired when you wrote this. Comparing nonunion, inexperienced NFL officials to the same in the police and fire field is irresponsible at best. Besides, the officials at the Lions game Sunday did a very competent job. Not, that I am for Union busting, but lets keep the importance of the referee issue in perspective.

    The Princess

  2. Maybe, Princess. It depends on who's doing the perceiving. I don't disagree the officials did a decent job at the Lions game, amongst others I caught snips of, and that should greatly concern the regular refs. It seems logical that the more experience the scabs get -- the better they will become. And the regular refs will see whatever leverage they may have had slowly erode away, until they eventually become totally expendable. In which case, it's game over for the refs union. As a former union guy myself, I hope they reach an agreement soon.