Why The Debacle With The NFL Refs Is More Important Than A Football Game
By Jack Kelly
By now, you should be acutely aware of the horrendous, game ending call by the replacement refs, which was witnessed by millions of fans through out America on Monday Night Football. If you are not, here is a quick recap; a terribly called game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, capped an offensively officiated weekend of football games by the replacement refs. It was an awful whistle and maybe not the most egregious since the season started. However, it will be the one everyone will remember. For those of you who, like myself waste countless hours of time on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, there was a bipartisan eruption of condemnation directed at or ranging from the refs themselves, to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and then some directed at specific owners. Twitter and the internet was set ablaze in an irrational display of misplaced priorities. Every joke pertaining to be funny, but isn’t, was hailed into the stratosphere of nothingness masking as tweets and it was related to the refs and the NFL.
And of course within minutes, politics was at times subtly injected into the circus, while others it was overtly used as propaganda to prove over arching political points. Nobody was off limits for the jokes, however sinister or unfunny. Even Vince McMahon was trending at one point. President Obama was even given campaign advice from tweeters. For example, several tweeters opined that the President should use his ‘Presidential’ powers to end the lockout; while some, like the Sports Guy from Grantland.com suggested Governor Romney use his vast wealth and give 50 million to the refs for them to come back. Regardless of how funny that tweet from the Sports Guy was, it may be the Governors only chance to win this thing.
But a far more interesting thought provoked me to consider the ramifications of such a meaningless, yet for whatever psychological reason, very important American event. After all, isn’t it just a dumb football game? Of course it is!? I will wake up tomorrow and Aaron Rodgers, Roger Goodell and the Replacement Refs will not even think one second about my well being. They will not offer to pay my mortgage, nor will they comfort me in a personal time of need. The outcome of that game will not improve the economy and it will certainly not change the dysfunction in the Middle East.
Only if it were that simple.
I know better. As an avid sports fan who has been heart broken and elated by all four of my favorite local Boston sports teams, I understand the irrational nature of being an American sports fan. In many ways, we are just like the Romans who came to the Coliseum to see Gladiators fight to the death. Sure it is less gruesome, but the collective animalistic urge we all inhabit becomes virtual, in a more modern socially acceptable way. We are provided with a temporary relief from the daily grind and allowed to escape into a ‘game.’ For whatever reason, it means something, even though it shouldn’t.
Last night, I saw a tweet that stated this: ”What does it say about our country that if President Obama ended the lockout, he would win reelection in a landslide?” Initially, the tweet sort of amused me in a way that a stray cat would at midnight walking down the street. Until you ask yourself, “WTF is that cat doing and how did it get here?”
As I consider the deeper meaning of the tweet, it became somewhat disturbing. We are six weeks away from electing a President and yet, it is quite possible if the President were to end this replacement ref thing, it would somewhat improve his chances for reelection. Not questions about the middle east, the economy or any other significant event in the country or the world has or could alter the election, but a stupid sports labor dispute?
But then, I thought deeper (which by this article you can infer is an asinine thing for me to do) and realized, it should matter how the President and Governor Romney feel about this labor dispute. However, forget the more obvious reasons of democracy and the calculated political considerations such a decision to side with the refs would garner and contemplate what this dispute symbolizes. At its core, the Real Refs are part of an industry worth billions and although part time and well paid, have a belief they should share in the growth of the NFL. Essentially, from media reports, the Real Refs are disputing the NFL’s position of implementing a more owner favorable 401k system, as opposed to the more lucrative and worker friendly pension system they currently enjoy.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has stated he believes the Real Refs should have the same crappy retirement system the rest of the country has in the dreaded 401k package. Without debating the specifics of retirement plans, 401k’s put more risk on workers and have been proven to be less reliable than a traditional pension. Sure, 401k’s have more potential for growth, but without the combination of a stable pension, they are far more favorable to shareholders of companies than the long term individual economic health of workers.
But as the commissioner stated, as Americans, we have totally succumbed to this completely crappy system, so why shouldn’t the Real Refs? What Goodell is trying to employ is a good old divide and conquer strategy that reads like this: Why should you favor a pension for your neighbor when you have a crappy 401k? It’s a brilliant tactic, and for most of us living in reality, we shrug our shoulders and accept it as we seek a way to somehow earn more wealth for a retirement that seems less secure.
But with Football, which has become America’s new religion, we are incensed with anger over such atrocities concerning suspect officiating. Not because we care about the Real Refs, but because the game is unwatchable and we demand our escape from our own reality.
What this referee debacle should teach not only the NFL, but the rest of us in America, is not everything can be or should be, outsourced simply because it looks cute on a spreadsheet and gives stockholders a tingly sensation through out their bodies. Sometimes, we must realize that workers’ are a vital part of our economy and provide integrity to our industries; not just football. Not everyone can own a Football team or be the next Steve Jobs or Marc Cuban. Not everyone even aspires to do that. Some want a simple life revolving around hard work and the option to retire with dignity and to help provide for their current or future families.
Some of us may even garner an education or develop a trade and head to work for a quick 40 hours a week and then retreat to our families and TV sets to bask in the glory that never was. However we choose our time is pointless to me and others, but it is important to you.
But what is important to all of us, is the direction of our personal lives in conjunction with the direction of our country. The NFL labor dispute with the refs is similar to our lives and decisions we are forced to make with others, only on a larger and more transparent scale. It is a reflection of greed and a corporate thought process fixated on smaller spreadsheets without considering the collapse and destruction of such industries they pretend are simply evolving to become more “efficient.”
So on second thought, maybe we should demand to know where the President and Governor Romney stand on this labor dispute. Perhaps, this disputed game between the Seahawks and Packers is much more exigent than I thought.