I have a rhetoric question to ask: from the past few years, has anything positive, or beneficial, come from a CBA disagreement or general contract dispute in the sporting world? The NFL took a dip in production last year, especially on the defensive side, where a record number of quarterbacks threw for +4,000 yards. An NBA season had almost disappeared in front of our eyes, with the 2012-13 year finally beginning at Christmas. NHL was non-existant in 2004-2005. You get the picture.
Now we are dealt with a different kind of lockout, one that involves an unheralded group of individuals. Individuals who are crucial to the integrity of one of America’s favorite sports.
The NFL, it’s 32 owners and fully expensed legal team locked out the NFL referees this season for not coming to an agreement on a collective bargaining agreement. For those who do not understand the sports legal mumbo jumbo, it comes down to this: the refs want a pay increase for refereeing one of the most scrutinized sports to date. Their NBA, NHL and MLB counterparts average around $128,000 to $142,000 a season for their efforts. For the NFL, the average comes out to around $70,000 (according to therichest.org). Sure, take in to account experience and field of expertise, but the lines are clearly drawn.
With the importance of the NFL higher-ups being focused on starting the season on-time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hired replacement refs to take care of the duties of the one who were asking for a bit of pay raise. These individuals range from teachers with high school refereeing experience to minor college football backgrounds. To say they are inexperienced is an extreme understatement for the conditions of taking the stage on a national level.
America played witness to some horrific play-calling in the preseason, but the alarm wasn’t pulled in hopes of resolution taking place. However, the nightmare is in full-effect: the replacements are still there with no signs of an agreement with season referees taking place.
Week 3 provided excellent data on the atrocity taking place: Jim Harbaugh gaining a challenge (and winning) without a timeout being available in the Vikings/49ers game, the Patriots being handed bogus penalties left and right (cue to the Belichick grab) and most notably, the Monday Night Football debacle the will go down in NFL history as one of the worst officiated games its fans and players were subjected to.
On a last minute Hail Mary, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson heaved it into the end zone in hopes of a last second score. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate not only pushed off a Green Bay Packer defensive back, but was clearly dominated by the Packers’ MD Jennings interception for what should have signified a Green Bay win. Consequently, the play was called a touchdown by the ambiguous refs and even further, the NFL released a statement agreeing with the misjudged call.
If this sort of nonsense continues, the game of football we all love and cherish will continue to be in jeopardy, losing it’s integrity by each ticking second. A near billion dollar industry cannot afford to lose the faith from its fan, but the playing will of its players and coaches. If corrective actions are not to occur in the near future, can we even classify this as football being played?
The ball is in your court Goodell, and with the 70,000 voicemails stating their general concern for the game, I think it’s time to swallow the pride and bring back what fans yearn for on a weekly basis in the fall: quality, fundamental football.