By now, it seems that the blown call and general ending to the Seahawks-Packers game last night is an issue of national controversy. It made the national nightly news. It made the local news. I’ve read on some blogs and websites people actually suggesting that the Presidential candidate who comes up with a solution to this mess could have a landslide victory in November. HA!
This whole thing reminds me of a very fine film, a cult classic, called Idiocracy. The commissioner of the NFL today is like the POTUS in that movie, basically an incoherent stooge. His cabinet is made up of people who can’t form sentences. Football fans – the masses – are the ones who pack arenas and watch award-winning shows like “Ow, my balls!” If you haven’t seen the movie, I’m sorry for the odd reference.
We, as football fans (and season ticket holders), pay the figure thrown in front of us. The figure printed on the tickets. The figure printed on the PSL statements. We buy the merchandise. We support the team. We’re sheep being led someplace we’re not exactly sure of each year, which is part of the fun. This could be OUR YEAR, after all! My fellow Jets fans have been saying this to each other for well longer than I have lived on this planet. And, this is the basis for which monster business – like the NFL – is born.
Demand. And only when demand sags, will change happen. If demand doesn’t sag, nothing happens. We continue on our way. Replacement ref’s continue to show up. More importantly, WE continue to show up if not in the stadiums then via TV.
Seriously, do you really think people who suggest that fans should boycott the season really will? We – every football fan – have waited since February to start the cherished 16-game season anew. Now, after week 3 of having replacement referee’s who have actually changed the outcomes of games, we’re going to somehow boycott watching or going to the games? That’s funny. Of course we’ll watch. I’m not a Packers fan, but do you think after feeling your team got screwed last night, you’re going to NOT watch on Sunday? I bet the ratings will be through the roof! All those pent-up emotions and the whole revenge factor. Come on – this is reality TV, and people are going to be tuning in like never before.
(Quick sidebar: I do not for one second believe that any blame goes to the replacement officials themselves. They’re in over their heads. It is like a 24 year-old being hired as a CEO of a major company. Oh, wait, that feels like it’s happened before. Forget that.)
Here’s the deal: the whole standoff with the professional ref’s and the NFL has to do with the team owners. Roger Goodell is the commissioner of the NFL. He works for the owners, he acts as their agent in the supposed best interest of the league. Don’t think for one second he makes a decision without consulting 32 other people, the team owners. A lot of people want Mr. Goodell hung after last night’s game, and that may in fact be appropriate because of his utter megalomania and ironic spinelessness; but the root issue here is that the owners do not want to pay a mere pittance more to professional referee’s toward their pension plan. The sock puppet in all this is Mr. Goodell; he’s the equivalent of a wimpy middle-man who has to check with his bosses to get a restroom pass. It is the owners on one side and the referee’s union on the other. They’re in a standoff. And the game is suffering. And as usual, it is all about money.
Envision this (if you can, it is a stretch for most): you’re an owner of an NFL franchise. A billionaire. Not “just” a millionaire. A billionaire. How often do you get told “no” or lose a negotiation? Never? Or one time out of a thousand? You’re an owner, knowing that your team’s fans pay a lot of money for either season tickets or individual game tickets. You mostly, if not 100% of the time, sell out your stadium. You have TV rights. Get people to pay PSL’s (personal seat licenses – aka, “the RIGHT to have the option to buy season tickets”, imagine that). So now, this year, 2012, you have some relatively blue collar and middle-class referee’s making a stink that they want to have a better pension plan. You think the owners are going to roll over? You think Mr. Goodell, the son of a former politician, is going to go to the owners and say “I think we need to cave guys, the replacement ref’s are really mucking things up, they’ve got leverage.”? Of course not!
What this really tells you is that the NFL is big business, run by big business owners. There is nothing wrong with this, by the way. They have earned the right to dictate on their own terms how to run their own teams. Their. Teams.
With great power comes great responsibility. And in addition to their teams, the responsibility to make sure the league’s integrity is equally important.
My problem is that the commissioner of the league in this case is a joke. It has been masked until now, but it is unavoidable now. The commissioner understands now more than ever that his salary is paid by the owners, regardless of the state of the sport itself. And let’s make no mistake…in my lifetime, the NFL has not been in worse shape after last night’s game and the first 3 weeks of this season. Maybe social media has a role in this, because any average fan now has a platform with Twitter or Facebook to make his or her feelings known so everything seems more magnified. I’m friends with former NFL players and they are pretty down in the dumps today, and it has nothing to do with whether you’re a Packers fan or Seahawks fan. It has everything to do with integrity. Money and integrity can go together, they can. You can make a lot of money and have the utmost integrity.
The problem is that right now, that is far from happening. Someone has got to accept some responsibility here and fix this. But they probably won’t. The Benjamin’s. Lots of them coming in, and, I – like pretty much everyone I know – will tune in this Sunday and get excited about the Jets playing the 49ers, or whatever your game of choice is, and dissecting every possible angle of the game. I think for the average fan who is not an NFL owner, we kind of “get it”, but all we want to see is the game not tarnished by ego. And that’s what this is. It is billionaires not wanting to get shown up by some lowly ref’s. It is the commissioner not wanting to sell the owners out OR to get shown up by lowly ref’s.
The only problem is…the owners sure as hell need those lowly ref’s now more than ever. Hopefully they cave, and then vote to boot the commissioner out for being spineless in all this.
We will all remember the “Monday Night Debacle”. Let’s just hope it doesn’t live to see another Monday night.