Sunday, September 23, 2012



Many of us will be watching football this afternoon and evening.  I may be less interested than some fans as my New York Giants routed the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.  During the course of play today we’ll probably throw our hands up in disgust or shout at the television because some replacement referee blew a crucial call.  Apparently we are more than glad to get to watch our favorite game even though the folks who know how to properly officiate have been locked out.  There’s something wrong with me.  I have been annoyed at the blown calls, rather than being upset at the owners for nickeling and diming the referees.  I laughed at a mismarked down, rather than being angry at the players for failing to show solidarity with the referees.  We fans seem willing to blindly watch our game so long as our team is on the field.

Index Card #1 (2000)

From what I can gather the referees may about $8,800 per game (the substitutes are getting $3,000).  The average NFL player makes about $125,000 per game and the top stars get about $1.1 million per contest.  True the NFL referees only work part-time and have other jobs, but the football players are part-timers as well.   Yes it is a lot of money to referee a game, but it’s the game that is making millionaire owners into billionaires.

On the pension front, the owners want to convert the defined benefit plan into a 401(K).  The referees are finding little sympathy on this issue as many Americans have already been stripped of the DB plan in favor of the vastly inferior 401(K).  It is kind of sad that the public is happy to see everyone reduced to an insufficient retirement plan (I’ve got more to say on this).

The referees currently have a form of tenure for the season.  The league wants to be able to evaluate them during the year and fire them if they fall below a certain standard.  It is kind of ironic that the owners are proposing this system, while at the same time putting largely incompetent referees on the field during the lock out.

The real point isn’t whether the referees or the owners are right on these disputes.  What bothers me is the complete lack of support for the referees.  I haven’t heard one word about the players walking out in solidarity, or even wearing an armband in protest (of course they’d be fined for violating NFL rules).  And we fans are simply tuning in, watching the commercials and letting the NFL ring up billions in revenues.

I don’t quite understand why we tolerate the misdeeds of corporations, but can’t forgive the sins of the unions.  Undoubtedly unions, like all organizations have their flaws and build up excesses over time.  Nonetheless they have done more good than harm in terms of working conditions, and hours and wages for folks inside and outside the unions.  If we can’t support the NFL referees who bring us the controlled violence we so enjoy, what hope is there for the unions representing the people who teach our kids, clean our hotel rooms and patrol our streets.

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