Today in Self-Inflicted Wounds: NFL

The NFL chose to lock out their officials just prior to the start of the 2012 season in a dispute about money, and hoped that no one would care. The League was essentially right, TV ratings for the first three weeks of the NFL season have been solid, and Sunday’ night’s game “crushed” the Emmy’s.

The League and the refs are arguing about a number of things (pensions, salary, adding refs, full time vs. part time) that all come back to money. On pensions, the refs were promised a fairly valuable pension plan, that the League is trying to change into a 401k, where the officials would have to invest some of their salary and take on additional risk. That is an unfair demand from the NFL without further concessions. The most reasonable thing to do would be to grandfather the old refs in on their current play and start new officials off on the the new 401k deal. The alternative is that the NFL increases pay for all refs so that the value of the retirement benefits drop in comparison to total salaries.

On salary, the two sides are closer, in the words of Tim Millis, the NFLRA executive director, the disagreement on salary ”┬áis a gap that could be closed with some minor concessions by both sides.” The two sides are arguing over much less than 1% annually of league revenues, for a league that is the most valuable sports property in America.

The NFL wants to make some of their officials full-time employees, which the union has resisted. The refs all work other outside jobs, and leaving those would cost them salary. To induce full-time employment, the NFL must pay enough to make that a worthwhile economic proposition for the officials.

Again, this is a lockout and not a strike. The League chose the most drastic course of action with their officials rather than bargain in good faith. Everyone should side with the officials against management’s heavy-fisted and unfair actions and attack on collective bargaining.

By the way, on the merits, I did not think the call that is drawing the most attention in the Seahawks/Packers game on Monday, the disputed interception/touchdown was the worst call of the game, or even the drive. There was a phantom pass interference call that set up that play, and a soft roughing the quarterback call that started the whole drive. And that’s the point. The replacement officials are just guessing. They lack the training, experience and yes skills to do their jobs correctly.

Whose fault is it? The NFL. Yes, the players are the best in the world at what they do. They are paid as such. The regular refs are also the best in their business. Pay them as such.

If only there was a way to make the NFL feel soem pain. Turn off the TV? Can sports fans turn off the football and watch baseball?