NFL: MNF Becomes Political Football

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Tiassa, Sep 25, 2012.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    NFL: MNF Becomes Political Football

    Robert Siegel of All Things Considered talked with Mike Pesca, NPR's sports reporter, to discuss the NFL lockout of its referees.

    First, the issues:

    SIEGEL: Well now, remind us what the issues are that are keeping the regular referees locked out.

    PESCA: It's not money per se, or I should say, it's not salary. Referees get an average of about $150,000 a year. But like so many businesses, pensions are on the line. The NFL wants to move to sort of a 401(k) plan. The referees want to keep their regular old pension. There are issues with moving officials to full-time. They're technically part-time officials.

    If the league were to pay three million this year, they could bridge the gap. That's about the difference. That's $100,000 a team, that won't buy labor peace for year after year after year, but it's a relatively little amount of money involved considering the NFL is a $9.5 billion business ....

    .... SIEGEL: So why is the NFL digging in so deep on this? Why?

    PESCA: Yeah. You know, the NFL says, hey, no one watches these games for the referees. I would suggest another construction - I would say everyone watches the games not to notice the referees. And now that we're noticing the referees, it does hinder the enjoyment of the game. But this is what the NFL is banking on - the ratings don't show that. And it seems like the NFL is all but a bullet proof concept. I'd perhaps challenge the league in its negotiations. How much do you want to bet on that? It's like I said, a relative pittance separating the referees and a contract.

    But there's one other thing to consider and this was kind of put in my ear by Gabe Feldman who runs Tulane's law program. His theory is that the NFL wants to be seen as really abstinent on this because what the NFL wants to do, in his opinion, is to show that it has a steel backbone because it doesn't really care about the referee negotiation. It cares about the big negotiation with players.

    And if they seem implacable in the face of all this criticism that they're getting with the referees, maybe they'll be taken more seriously by the players. I don't know, but it does seem to be one of the few plausible explanations for why a deal is not getting done.

    And the obvious question:

    SIEGEL: Now it has been suggested that the league's breaking point will come when a game is clearly won or lost based on a bad call. So the question is, there have been a lot of bad calls, has that actually happened? Has it decided the result of a game?

    PESCA: Well, you know, members of the Patriots say it had. They will say and Brandon Spikes tweeted that we were victimized by these refs who - actually he said zebras - who need to go back to Foot Locker. And then in subsequent tweets he said: Refs? Who said anything about refs? I was talking about zebras.

    But let's look to last - let's look to Sunday's Detroit-Tennessee game. The referees misplaced the ball in overtime. They simply marked off a penalty from the wrong spot. And they gave Tennessee 12 yards. This was 12 yards on the drive that resulted in the only points in overtime. So, yeah, that comes pretty close to a blunder really affecting the outcome of the game. And, of course, if you want to take into account all the subjective calls, there seem to be a lot of them and a lot of them that are wrong.

    As anyone who watched last night's Monday Night Football game are aware, the league may have reached its breaking point.

    At the end of the game, people are arguing about two calls. The most obvious one is the game-ending touchdown that won the game for the Seattle Seahawks. What looked like an interception by the Green Bay Packers was ruled a reception by the Seahawks. Here's the thing about that call: One can reasonably argue that it was the correct call, but it's a technical argument to a degree the replacement officials have not demonstrated in their execution of the games so far this season. It is, essentially, a tie-goes-to-the-offense argument and a question about how you establish the tie.

    The second call extended that Seattle drive on a third and thirty play, a pass interference call against the Packers when it was clearly the Seahawks' Sidney Rice who was interfering with the defensive back. Or was it? The camera angle the booth crew relied on to make their complaint to the audience showed Rice with a handful of the defender's uniform. They showed once or twice another angle, but failed to mention that the defender also had a handful of Rice's uniform, and the flag came from the referee who could clearly see that grab. It's a tough call, and should have been a non-call. But one was the infraction that the referee would see by simply watching the play according to his duty from his proper position on the field. The other was obscured by the defender's body. Even with the regular corps of officials, teams lose those calls all the time.

    The problem is that the entire game was executed poorly. In the first half, Seattle racked up eight sacks. In the second, none. It is true that the Packers changed gears and ran the ball more, but it is also true that the officials simply stopped calling holding against Green Bay.

    Additionally, the Packers saw their own touchdown drive extended by a pass interference call against the Seahawks that was, in reality, textbook-perfect defense. The official who threw the flag was in reasonably proper position according to his duty, but not in position to establish the contact he thought he saw.

    The bottom line is that the entire game was poorly executed. And, yes, the winning touchdown call on the field is unquestionably questionable. But, at the same time, fans seeking sanity, television crews seeking melodrama, and players who just want to able to play the game are all screaming for the lockout to end. Last night's game, especially considering its outcome, is bellwether. If this doesn't end the lockout, the League is simply being stupid.

    This time it broke Seattle's way. It's an argument we hear up here all the time:

    "But the refs blew it!"

    Well, sometimes you get those calls and sometimes you don't. It happens.

    "When do we ever get those calls?"​

    The last chip fell to the Seahawks last night. Still doesn't make up for the Super Bowl, but hey, sometimes you get those calls, and sometimes you don't.

    Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker's office is now trying to explain that the union-busting executive's complaint last night shouldn't have anything to do with unions:

    If there's one thing that can unite political foes in Wisconsin, it just may be the Green Bay Packers.

    Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who made a national name for himself by going after public employee unions last year, posted a message on Twitter calling for the return of the NFL's locked-out unionized officials after a disputed call led to a Seattle Seahawks 14-12 victory over the Packers on Monday night.

    "After catching a few hours of sleep, the (hash)Packers game is still just as painful. (hash)Returntherealrefs," Walker tweeted early Tuesday.

    Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who was one of 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois for three weeks last year in opposition to Walker's union proposal, said he saw the irony in Walker's post but in Wisconsin "we're all fans, first and foremost."

    "If you were born and raised in Wisconsin, you were raised on the Packers," Erpenbach said. "Every Sunday it's Packers and pancakes, not necessarily in that order."


    Ah, politics!

    Maybe the League will wait for Congress to get involved.


    Pesca, Mike. Interview with Robert Siegel. All Things Considered. September 24, 2012. Transcript. September 25, 2012.

    Bauer, Scott. "Union-buster Walker calls for return of union refs". Associated Press. September 25, 2012. September 25, 2012.
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  3. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

    I've seen the regular referee's make bad calls but not much was said about it by the media when that happened. As it was put, it happens, so you can't always be perfect in making calls. So why is it when the regular referee's made those bad calls nothing was done to them other than admonishing them but when these new replacements make blunders the media just can't stop condemning them for their bad calls? I really don't think that the replacements are as good as the the regulars BUT do think they are doing about as good of a job as they can given the conditions they are put under and the time they were allowed to become ready to get this job done. Like with anyone starting a new job mistakes will be made but that's just part of the learning curve.

    Many people today have 401k retirement plans so why is it that the regular referee's can't accept the same as millions of others, are they special or what gives?:shrug:
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  5. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    (Something, something, Burt Ward)

    From the other side, which seems to be the more commonly held view, the question is why the referees should take a benefit reduction in order to increase the owners' profits when the League isn't in any financial trouble.

    It's not like the NFL is saying, "We can't honor the promises we made." Rather, they're saying, "We don't want to honor the promises we made."

    And it's such a tiny amount of money compared to the enterprise.

    And, yeah, okay, this part made me smile.

    Not gleeful, impish delight, but, you know, one of those Bart Simpson, "Oh, yeah," sort of moments.

    The big number from last night's MNF controversy:

    This morning, ESPN Sports business writer Darren Rovell reported that the game ending call in Monday night's Seattle win shifted between $150 million and $250 million in money that NFL gamblers had riding on the game.



    I don't gamble on sports. Seeing that number reminds me why.


    Velasco, Schuyler. "NFL referee debacle costs everyone, except the NFL". The Christian Science Monitor. September 25, 2012. September 25, 2012.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2012
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  7. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps the referee's that made the bad calls were the ones betting on the outcome they were involved with. Imagine having the power to decide how much money they could split if they made one call or another.:shrug:
  8. Chipz Banned Banned

    I didn't see any reference to comparison of the 401k vs the current pension plan. What is the current pension benefits package?
  9. Balerion Banned Banned

    The players have gone on record saying that these replacement refs act more like fans than officials, even going so far as to root for certain players due to team allegiances or fantasy considerations. One ref had to be pulled from a New Orleans game earlier this year because it was discovered that he was a die-hard Saints fan. No doubt the real refs have favorites (or had, perhaps) but it's not an issue with them because they are professionals and know to check their fanhood at the door, just as the players and coaches do.

    Trent Dilfer made an excellent point in last night's post-game coverage on ESPN when he said that the commissioner has spent the past few years coming into locker rooms around the league promising to do whatever it takes to "protect the shield," referring to the NFL logo (ie protect the brand), yet it's the NFL that's hurting that brand right now. All of the crackdowns on off-the-field behavior, all of the "refocusing" on player safety, all of this was done on the basis of protecting the NFL brand, yet they're more than happy to roll out high school, division III, and lingerie league (not even kidding) referees to oversee the biggest sport in the country.

    People hope last night's debacle will bring faster resolution to the matter, but I don't see it. The refs have no reason to take a benefit reduction, and the NFL isn't just going to give up on its greed because of one humiliating night.
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    It's a lot more than one night - it's almost every game. What happened Monday night was typical. The Vikings/49rs game last Sunday featured two or three of the worst calls I have ever seen on a football field, at any level, and even without ending up having changed the outcome bid fair to damage the memory of the game. That was the third consecutive Vikes game they've screwed up, made an unsatisfactory muddle out of, and from the news everybody else is having similar experiences.

    I'm not a real football fan, so I'll probably keep tuning in as before, on occasion - but there's a certain mood around that is leaning toward the college game, locally. The real fans do have somewhere to go, with their emotional allegiance and focus, and this stuff is coming in on top of the injury issue. If the NFL is bent on seeing how bad a taste they can leave in people's mouths without losing audience, they may find out.
  11. Balerion Banned Banned

    Well, they've been bad, but last night was the first example of a game ending on a bad call by the fake refs. They have cost other teams games, obviously, but this was the most crystalline example of it.

    College is a fun game, but it's a different animal. Even at its best, you're talking about a game half the speed and skill of the professional version. It's not exactly rare to be a fan of both, but I haven't ever met a die-hard fan of both. Luckily, the NFL games this year haven't been too bad. There have been some terrible calls, but to balance that out the refs really aren't calling the lame-ass fouls that Goodell has installed over the last few years, like the helmet-to-helmet stuff, or the "defenseless receiver" crap that makes a DB's job impossible. I want the real refs back because they don't get stuff like last night wrong, but at the same time, with them back we'll all be left bitching about how shitty the rules have become. I mean, if a receiver takes a clean hit and stays down, real refs throw the flag every time, because the league tells them to "err on the side of caution." In other words, it doesn't matter if you hit them clean, if you hurt them you get flagged. Well, that doesn't happen with these idiot refs, and that's kinda cool.
  12. brucep Valued Senior Member

    Why not get rid of the refs altogether. The rule could be you're not down by contact unless it's helmet to helmet. What's going on now is a joke. Your comments are a joke.
  13. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member


    Up in Seattle, we're laughing. You blow a Super Bowl, we get a quiet apology five years later. You blow a Monday Night Game, the League settles its dumb-ass lockout.

    And the nation gets a new political metaphor:

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    Milt Priggee, September 28, 2012

    • • •

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    Steve Sack, The Star Tribune, September 29, 2012

    • • •

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    Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 26, 2012

    (via Cagle)
  14. Balerion Banned Banned

    I'm sorry, what?
  15. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

    Speaking of salaries, the referees’ compensation was reportedly any easy item for the parties to negotiate. Apart from their benefit package, the game officials’ compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. This amounts to over a 37.5 percent increase in income for the referees over the course of eight years. The referees have much to celebrate about this significant increase in their compensation. Given that most hold jobs outside of their officiating positions, this is a huge gain for the NFL officials. However, it is arguable that the raise was made upon the NFL’s realization that while its league is largely player-driven, trained and experienced officials are necessary to ensure the competitive reputation of the game.

    The greatest sticking point in the parties’ negotiations was how to re-work the referees’ pension plan. With most big businesses grandfathering pension plans for their employees, the NFL sought to do the same with the referees. Under the 2005 collective bargaining agreement, the referees maintained their defined benefit retirement plans, which granted retired referees a fixed amount of income based upon years of employment. Early in negotiations, the NFL suggested moving to a 401 (k) plan that the NFLRA asserted would reduce the NFL’s contributions by 60 percent. The NFL initially demanded that the switch to a 401 (k) plan be made immediately, while the NFLRA countered with a grandfathered proposal applied only to new hires. Ultimately, the sides settled upon a plan proposed by the NFL, wherein the current officials will retain the defined benefit pension plan until 2016, or until the official earns 20 years of service. Thereafter, the benefit plan will be frozen.

    While the referees maintain the defined contribution plan for a period of time, the NFL arguably won on this issue. This is due to the fact, that new hires will not receive the defined contribution plan. Further, the parties will move to a modified retirement system beginning in 2017 that has both defined contribution and 401 (k) elements. This revised system is not a wash for the referees altogether, however. This is because under the revised system, beginning in 2017, the league will make annual contributions to each official’s account beginning at more than $18,000 and increasing to more than $23,000 in 2019. The NFL will also partially match contributions the officials make to their 401 (k) accounts.

    Not bad for part time work where all you need do is be at 16 games and perhaps a few more during play offs to recieve this huge amount of money. I'm really happy they got what they wanted for the plumbers, electricans and carpenters, just to name a few other workers, never recieved anything near this level of income for what their 40 hour work week is and they must work every week for the most part.
  16. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    GB vs. NO game. The refs iced the kicker and nicely gave the game to GB. At least now GB is averaged out.

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