Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Solving the NFL scab problem

I totally agree with Al's comment (see previous post), when he said NFL Commish Roger Goodell started off with good intentions, but has subsequently become drunk with power, perhaps even irrational. Prior incidents aside, his current "feud" with the regular NFL officials has certainly taken center stage, to the chagrin of just about everybody associated with pro football, including coaches, players, and fans. Given the sorry state of officiating in the games, right now Goodell is the "bad guy" in the eyes of the vast majority.

But there's a catch to that argument. While Goodell is the equivalent of a CEO, the various team owners could be considered the members of the board. They hired him, and they can damn well fire him, and everybody else at the league offices, if they so chose. What I'm getting at is -- if a majority of the owners wanted the labor dispute settled tomorrow between the NFL and the refs' union, it WOULD be settled -- tomorrow. Therefore, it's not just Roger and his henchmen. Ultimately, the owners bear much of the culpability for the on-going debacle. At that, super-wealthy people are used to getting their own way, and can sometimes afford to stand on principle, while logically, and even financially, it makes little, if any sense.

Remember, the NFL offices, Roger Goodell, and all their high-powered legal eagles that do the nuts and bolts of contract negotiations are only there at the behest of the owners. In that regard, the current dispute with the refs' union seems ludicrous. The owners could be considered a consortium of 32 billionaires that are standing firm on a few million dollars, while watching their product suffer some serious quality-control problems. This is chump change to them. One might liken it to the average working stiff haggling with an auto mechanic over a two dollar part to get their car to run smoothly, and stop shaking liking it was in an earthquake while going down the road. What would YOU do?

Other than the owners solving the problem, which doesn't seem likely, there's a couple different ways to bring pressure to bear. One takes guts, and the other, a LOT of guts.

First, while most everybody is in an uproar about the current situation, coaches and players are pretty much under a gag order. No, it has nothing to do with a judicial mandate handed down by a REAL judge, where speaking out could result in one being whisked off to a jail cell for contempt of court. Rather, the professionals that are actually on the field, and know far more about the game than anyone else, have to be guarded in their remarks for a different reason. Like in other sports, there's a commandment that says -- thou shalt not publicly disparage the officials that called the game.

Players and coaches fear to tread on that hallowed ground, lest the Sword of Damocles (the league) come thundering down and smite their heads (paychecks). Sure, officials should always be physically hands-off, don't touch, but criticizing them publicly over their performance is taboo?

That's just wrong. They work in the public domain, and make decisions which affect others, so they should be fair game like all the rest. Good grief, Obama and Romney down to the lowliest politicos get ripped every day. Movie stars and other celebrities are splashed all over the tabloids. Even the coaches and athletes themselves are constantly subjected to media criticism. For that matter, various factions have disrespected certain deities that others believe in -- but God forbid, excuse the pun, one should criticize the zebras. Something is very wrong with this picture.

It would take one head coach, and one prominent player, to have the guts to throw off the intimidation factor and say what they really think. If a particular official made an obvious bone-headed call, then say so, and publicly name him. It's not like the zebras are CIA agents. The coaches and players know who they are. They should be able to rant all they want. This is America. Freedom of speech, and all that. Would they immediately be zapped by Zeus Goodell? No doubt, but hopefully, if one had the guts to speak out, another would follow. And then another. And then more. Dominoes. What could the league do? Fine and suspend all of them?

But in a perfect world, there's another scenario that would be even better. It would require a lot of guts, but be extremely effective in taking the NFL/refs' union dispute to a whole new level. This would involve the players turning the tables on the owners.

Showing union solidarity, the players go on strike. Their unified message to the NFL would be this -- "If replacement officials are OK by you, then go get replacement players as well. Might as well make it a total clown act. We'll come back when the regular officials come back. You'll love the salaries, but good luck with the media and the fans. Keep us posted".

Yeah, I know. It'll never happen, but if it did, can you imagine?


  1. John: By your own admission, the regular Refs make just as many bad calls, or what you think are bad calls, as the subs. So other than the Union busting, what is the big issue here. Stop ranting about this crap, if Roger and his antics were not getting all this press, good or bad, this issue would have been settled. The more attention this guy gets, the longer his lockout. Yes, some people thrive on any attention, negative or positive.

    The Princess

    1. I strongly beg to differ, Your Highness, on just about every point you made. Nowhere in my words will you find me saying the regular refs make just as many bad calls as the scabs. In fact, the whole point, both mine and the public outrage, is exactly the opposite. Hello? While possible union busting indeed plays a role in the overall picture, more importantly, the "big issue" you mention is the very integrity of the game at it's highest levels. What I personally think about certain calls on the field is irrelevant. This is an area I have no expertise in and should be left to those that are most qualified. It's the best players and coaches and they deserve the best refs to officiate the games. Sure, they're human and will make mistakes, but if I'm looking at surgery, I sure as hell wouldn't want some first year pre-med student wielding the scalpel. There's a big difference. Further, I find it mind-boggling that you really think this would have been settled in the absence of public pressure. It is exactly THAT, with the Monday Night game debacle serving as an exclamation point, that has finally got negotiations back on the fast track. As for my rants? Hey, I was recruited to do this, signed on, and my job is to throw sports rants out there. I shall continue to do so with whatever subject matter pops into my head, though I harbor no illusions that everybody will agree with my opinion on any particular topic. Getting ripped here and there just goes with the territory. Finally, I do find it somewhat amusing that a self-professed member of royalty would castigate others for thriving on attention, though. That's a good one.