Referees-NFL labor dispute downgrades Goodell

September 26, 2012, 8:39 pm
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With the NFL and its officials about to come to an agreement, let us say thisoff the top:The owners lost. No matter how much money they saved, they lost.Roger Goodell lost. Big time. He has been downgraded by the public from AdmiredIntergalactic Constable to Highly Compensated Functionary as he became what heis paid to be the face of bad news so the owners dont have to be. He is nowa glorified Gary Bettman or David Stern, and not nearly as publicly adept asBud Selig.Let that one rattle your brain a minute. And then be sure to thank LanceEasley for making it all happen.Easley is the side judge who first concluded that Golden Tate really did defyrules and physics to catch the winning touchdown in Mondays Packers-SeahawksGamblers Giveaway. He is the guy who stood by the pile, peered in, and shothis arms up in the air like he just didnt care.And the nation melted down, and the owners and officials found a place to stopand rest after their tail-chase.Youd like to think the officials got everything they wanted, just so theleague would understand how important good officiating is. Not that the regularboys are blameless, but when you see the chaos that resulted from underpreparedofficials, you see how much better the real guys actually were.Now maybe the plan to increase depth will help, though a concerted effort tosimplify the rulebook and add yet another official or even two to help with theunconvered angles would help even more.For the most part, though, the league got kicked in the specials because itthought people wouldnt care about officials, and they were right, and wrong.People dont care about officials, but they care very deeply about officiating.At least they do when it lowers itself to the levels the league was apparentlycomfortable with until Monday.REWIND: NFL issues statement following blown call on Monday night
Will this serve as a deterrent the next time another league wants to squeeze afew dollars from its officiating corps? No. Owners think their competitivenatures matter too, and they cant compete by playing or coaching or evengeneral managing. Theyre not equipped or trained for it, and those who tryfail spectacularly. They can only compete at something theyre putatively good at in labor negotiations,and they consider it a win only when theyve hosed the employees. Thats whatthey tried to do here, and they failed, not because their offer was insulting,but because they presumed leverage they ultimately didnt have.RELATED: Dolich -- Referee pensions major sticking point in labor talks
Oh, they had the money and the power, but they didnt have the ability toreplace their officials with other officials, and they forgot that in sportsunlike nearly every other walk of life, the on-field personnel are the productyoure selling. Locking our players or refs is like car dealer trying to lowercosts by firing the cars.You cant play without players, and you cant keep them from killing each otherwithout officials who know what theyre doing. That was the lesson the ownersand their faithful ward Rog swallowed today, and it would never have happenedwithout Lance Easley. We owe him a level of gratitude that I expect we willnever be in the mood to pay. But at least he knows we are in his debt.Ray Ratto is a columnist for