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September 27, 2012


Yesterday I blogged that I expected team NFL owners and the professional referees’ union to come to an agreement “very soon.” Today the parties involved announced that they have such an agreement, starting with a game tonight. I take no credit for such a prediction. It didn’t take a Nostradamus to see that Green Bay Packer fans and Las Vegas gamblers were on the verge of riot if not revolution after the botched call by scab referees in last Sunday’s game, a crucial call which stole the game from the Packers. Their anger was exacerbated by the NFL’s admission that the call was indeed botched and a mistake, but one which the NFL upheld anyway. That’s the equivalent of telling a prisoner on death row that you know he is not the one who committed the murder, but an incompetent judge held otherwise; so now it’s off to the gas chamber with you.

 I came up in a world where mistakes had consequences, and where correctable, were corrected. My take on this dustup is that the scab referees weren’t the only ones who made a mistake. The NFL also made a mistake when they did not correct the admitted mistake of the scab referees, and don’t tell me there is no way to correct such an admitted mistake, especially where the outcome of the game depends upon taking corrective action, as here.

The failure to do so strongly suggests that the scab referees are not the only incompetent players in this game; that the NFL governing body in charge of such matters is incompetent as well. In fact, an argument can be made that the NFL is more incompetent than the scab referees that they hired, beginning with negligence in hiring such incompetent personnel and ending with doing nothing about an admittedly game-changing call. The NFL knew the truth, admitted that the botched call was wrong, and then said they weren’t going to do anything about it. That goes beyond incompetence and negligence. They knew the facts, so their do-nothing call had to be by design. Why?

What is going on? Who was the NFL placating with such an extraordinary act of upholding an admittedly wrong and game-changing decision? Las Vegas gamblers? NFL team owners? Stadium bondholders? Upholding some arcane rule which requires wrong-doing on their part? The Players’ Union? Budweiser? What is going on behind the green door (green as in $$$$$)?

 What is the real truth behind such a horrific decision to do nothing? (As a retired lawyer, I would like to take the depositions of the NFL people who made such a decision to do wrong, and their rationale for doing it.) I suspect money was involved – what a shock! So who called the shot? Budweiser, which doesn’t want frustrated fans to stop watching the big show every Sunday for fear of losing their libation’s market share? NFL owners, welfare recipients extraordinaire, who play the role of “Father knows best” and are taking heat from hiring incompetent personnel? Who? Why? To what end? Oh, to represent the Packers! Or even the gamblers!

 I would expect the NFL to come out with some sort of PR statement about this whole snafu, but given their record for truth, I for one will not believe it. I am familiar with the old bromide that “To err is human, to forgive is divine,” but that doesn’t fit this situation. The NFL did not err, which suggests mere human mistake; they DELIBERATELY engaged in wrongdoing by ratifying what they KNEW to be wrong. That is not error; that is an underhanded undertaking and far less forgivable.

This act (or failure to act) will go down in sports history as an aberration at the very least. We have rules for the field based upon fair play. How is the idea of fair play evinced by a league that overrules changing a result where fair and honest play and truth becomes the victim of some dustbin rule, or worse, of gamblers and other moneychangers who have a stake in the status quo to the exclusion of fair play and honesty?

Such a travesty underlines the fact that professional football is in fact a business and not a sport. The athletes involved are just someone you hire to bring money into your coffers, just as Wall Street hires bright young graduates from the Harvard and Wharton business schools to come in and make money for their employers (and good returns to themselves as well). Sports pages glorify athletes and athletic teams, fans vie for tickets to games and bet bundles via Las Vegas. Taxpayers agree to bonding in order to build or improve football stadiums for team owners, who sometimes threaten to go elsewhere with their franchise unless taxpayers give them a free ride (a process aka welfare for the rich – many of those taxpayers who have to pay off the bonds are too poor to afford tickets to the games they are forced to sponsor). Team owners and Las Vegas are happy; the status quo is embedded.

This huge disaster for professional football comes at a time (as I noted in yesterday’s blog) that football may be on its last legs for other reasons and that participation in peewee and high school is dramatically down, even to the point that one local high school had to cancel its entire season for want of players. Parents are refusing to allow their children to participate because of the rash of concussions noted at every level of the game. With declining participation and interest in the game at these primary levels of competition, the pool of available players matriculating to colleges and universities will dwindle, as will interest in the game, portending an end to professional football as well as their seed corn evaporates.

The sportswriter I quoted yesterday opines that football is on its last legs and has no more than twenty years to go. That number, of course, will depend upon how the concussion and paralysis count numbers go. In all events, football will be around a lot longer than that. What we call soccer is what the rest of the world calls football, and I would expect greater interest in that game, perhaps roughly corresponding to the decrease of interest in what we Americans call football. I would expect would be football players who are suffering a parental timeout to get a green light from such parents for soccer.

We can convert the football stadiums to soccer stadiums, recruit some workers (aka players) to make money for team owners, get Las Vegas gamblers back on track (they are already into international soccer spreads), and get this “sport” up and running. We won’t even have to change the names of the stadiums; they will still be called football stadiums, though the game will be played sans hands, and, as Yogi noted, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

Meanwhile, let’s hope a whistleblower from the inside shows up and tells us what REALLY happened inside the NFL’s decision to leave wrong undone – and why. Level with us, team owners! We provide you with free stadiums, pay your ticket prices and drink your Bud, so let’s hear it. Tell us the unvarnished truth free of PR spin for a change.  GERALD  E.

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