During the warm-ups of the first Sunday slate of NFL games since the resolution of the dispute between the NFL and the National Football League Referees Association, capacity crowds at every stadium throughout the league greeted the referees with rare standing ovations.
But just because commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners finally decided to reach an agreement with the refs after a massive Monday Night Football fiasco last week, which saw the Seattle Seahawks awarded a bogus victory, are we supposed to give them a rousing round of applause as well? Should we set up a carnival and throw a big parade in their honor as if they were a team that just won the Super Bowl?
To borrow a quote from former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan, "NO! NO! NO!"
Over the last three-plus weeks I have heard fans, former NFL players and revered sports journalists alike all say: If we really want to force the NFL owners and Goodell to end the lockout with the zebras and get the legitimate officials back on the field than we, the fans, should just stop watching NFL games. While that sounded great in theory, just how realistic was it?
It wasn’t realistic at all.
In fact, it was totally implausible. It didn't really matter how disgusted leatherheads may have been with the inferior rent-a-refs , there was no chance there would be a large, calculated, nationwide organized, pro football viewing boycott to force the NFL offices hand. The NFL and its owners knew that. So in reality, that theory as well as our viewership input is really negligible.
It’s just like NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said during the post-game show following the Week 2 installment of MNF between the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos, “It just doesn’t matter. The NFL doesn’t care.”
Over the past six years since Goodell assumed the league’s most prestigious individual mantle, he and NFL headquarters have vociferously and continuously stated the integrity of the league and protecting the shield are paramount. They have also said their number one concern is player safety. Yet, Goodell and the owners are aggressively pushing to expand the regular season to 18 games, which would undoubtedly increase the risk of serious injuries. How does that enhance and protect the personal welfare of your on-field employees?
And the retired players? To quote legendary Outkast emcee Big Boi, “Boy stop!” By doling out insufficient pensions, the NFL continues to blatantly disrespect and spit in the face of the trailblazers and forefathers of the gridiron whose blood, sweat, tears and crippled bodies this NFL conglomerate is built on. The lack of consideration is absolutely deplorable.
And don’t even get me started on the inconsistency and nebulousness of player fines, suspensions and disciplinary action connected to on-field violations.
That’s what is so infuriating. The league’s executives profess to be so concerned about the players and the overall good of the game, yet they sully the on-field product with substandard officials. During this labor disagreement, NFL owners' constantly insulted our intelligence, as well as diminished the integrity and quality of their own game. They quibbled frugally over a few measly dollars out of a $9.5 billion enterprise, not wanting to dispense a few extra bucks to the NFLRA when the cash the refs wanted to retain in the pension is really infinitesimal in comparison to the owners' unlimited treasury of funds.
Over the next five years according to ESPN columnist and First Take debater Stephen A. Smith, the NFL is projected to rake in an estimated $12 billion to $16 billion each season. With that type of annually generated revenue conceding a few extra dollars is nothing. NFL referees' $149 million salary for this season is a night on the town at a swanky restaurant with a group of friends and few bottles of Cristal and Dom Perignon White Gold Jeroboam for these corporate heads. Yet, NFL owners still chose to be petty, hard-headed and needlessly refractory, holding up the negotiation process.
At the end of the day, this impasse really wasn’t about the officials. As the New York hip-hop group The Lox said in their 1998 song, this was all about money, power and respect.
The NFL owners are the quintessence of Wu-Tang Clan’s classic 1993 song, “C.R.E.A.M. - Cash Rules Everything Around Me.” The owners know what a powerful goldmine they’re sitting on. The inescapable truth is that after families return home from church, or stay at their abode watching the NFL pregame shows, they’ll inevitably come to worship at the Church of Pigskin every Sunday.
Each football fan across the country will enter the gates of the sanctuary with thanksgiving. We’ll throw up earnest prayers and exultation while paying tithes and offerings for the exhilarating service we spectate in our best Sunday garb of our favorite teams' jerseys, sweaters and ball caps as we read from the book of remarkable quarterback prophets Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
And for the truly most unswervingly fervent, faifhful members, revivals are held outside the stadium in the form of succulent tailgating feasts, burning the fattened calf of hot dogs, brats, burgers and steaks.
This past Monday during the disastrous Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks debacle, Nielsen TV Ratings showed 16 million viewers tuned in, garnering a 12.0 rating. That’s the third highest rating of the year for any cable-produced programming behind only the 2012 BCS National Championship Game and the 2012 Rose Bowl.
The Sept. 23 Baltimore Ravens-New England Patriots NBC Sunday Night Football tilt was the highest rated broadcast TV program for the week among adults 18-49 with an 8.7 number, and drew an overall rating of 12.9 with more than 21 million viewers. That includes The Emmy's, The Voice, The Revolution and X-Factor. The owners are aware of this. They know that no matter what, as long as NFL football is being played, fans will fill up stadiums and run to their boxes to see the action.
That’s why they had no qualms putting inferior, Division III, NAIA and high school refs on the field to supervise the action. I don’t blame the replacement officials. They're obviously unfamiliar with NFL rules and severely ill-equipped to call the blinding speed, athleticism and physicality of the NFL’s supreme athletes. It was a formality that their incompetence would show and that terrible officiating blunders would be made.
What is egregious and unpardonably pathetic is that the league’s offices and NFL owners would allow these marginal refs to defile the sanctity of the game and determine the outcome of contests with their ineptitude. They take the public for mindless suckers.
Franchise CEOs look at us like throngs of Homer Simpsons, spread throughout the country. We’ll always go to the bar to guzzle the unparalleled, intoxicating liquid ecstasy of the accosting barbaric violence, physicality and amazing athletic prowess these modern day athletic Trojans exhibit in our version of the Roman Coliseum we call NFL stadiums. And we'll keep requesting another round until we can't take anymore. But, in reality we always have room to take another one to the head.
All the while, the owners continue profiting monumental mozzarella like JD Rockefeller, laughing all the way to the bank, because no matter what happens they’ll always win because they’ll always get paid.
So no, NFL and your organizational bosses, you don’t deserve a standing ovation. Your efforts aren’t honorable. They’re disingenuous. Yes, we appreciate you bringing us America's preeminent sport, and it's well documented that some of your brethren do amazing things in their respective communities and have given second chances to help turn around the lives of star-crossed and despondent athletes.
However, this needless lockout didn't carry the same noble cause. Your actions indicate your primary objective is your bottom line. You owners didn’t agree to a deal for the refs, players, coaches, the fans or the greater good of the game. You did this to cover your own hypocritical behinds.
It took a direful, cataclysmic gaffe igniting social media outrage, discussions on The View, CBS' The Morning Show and NBC’s The Today Show and even President Obama to get you to reach the compromise that should have been done weeks ago. And it could potentially cost the Packers home-field advantage, or possibly even a playoff spot.
But in the end it’s really meaningless. The economically gluttonous, totalitarian skybox bosses will continue to reel in absurd amounts of cash and the congregation will keep loyally giving their offerings, religiously attending every service.
Isn’t that really all that matters people? Like LeBron James' Nike ad campaign said three years ago, “We are all witnesses.” We’ve got football. Let the church say amen! I mean: touchdown!