Monday Night Absurdity Leads To New Complaints About Replacement Referees

Last night's game between Green Bay and Seattle was the latest example of the sub-par officiating of the NFL's replacement referees.

If you happened to have missed Monday Night Football last night, you missed what may have been the worst officiated professional sports game ever:

The play that best defines this N.F.L. season occurred at the end of another game in which replacement officials looked less like actual referees and more like the Keystone Kops. It was bizarre enough to almost defy description.

In summary: the player who caught the winning score clearly pushed off to do so. He did not appear to really catch anything. One referee signaled a touchdown for the hometown Seahawks. Another seemingly signaled an interception for Green Bay.

Amid the bedlam that ensued, the teams retreated to their respective locker rooms. The game was over. Until it wasn’t. Both teams came back onto the field. The Seahawks kicked an extra point, extending their winning margin to 14-12. Celebration No. 2 commenced with some Seahawks half-dressed, all Packers incensed, and most football fans wondering why they ever complained about the officiating before this season.

It was, in a word, absurd. But in this N.F.L. season it was not atypical. It was Monday.

“This is comical to me,” Jon Gruden said on the ESPN broadcast.

He added: “That’s two of the worst calls at the end of a football game that I can remember.”

The Seahawks trailed with eight seconds remaining, fourth-and-10, ball on the 24-yard-line. Their quarterback, Russell Wilson, lofted a pass to the end zone where five Green Bay defenders outnumber two potential targets. Their receiver, Golden Tate, shoved one defender, Sam Shields, out of the way.

Another defender, M. D. Jennings, leapt from behind Tate. The ball appeared to land in Jennings’s hands. Tate’s hands were there, too, as Jennings fell to the ground and pulled the ball to his chest. Tate eventually wrestled the ball away.

The replacements stood there, with this dog pile in front of them, looked at each other, looked at Tate and almost sheepishly raised their hands. The side judge, Lance Easley, now the most popular Easley here since Kenny roamed the Seahawks’ secondary, thrust both arms skyward: touchdown. The back judge, Derrick Rhone-Dunn waved his arms: a touchback, or game over — it remained unclear.

Here’s the video:

This wasn’t the only bad call during last night’s game, just a few players earlier the Packers had fallen victim to a pass interference call that was wrong, and throughout the game there were other examples ranging from pass interference calls that were missed to an improperly called roughing penalty that negated an interception. This followed a weekend of games which, while it was somewhat better than the pathetically bad calls that dominated the NFL’s second week of play, were still pretty bad, not to mention delays of game while these referees who are clearly still unfamiliar with the system they’re working in figured out what the heck they should do on a particular play.

What started out as minor murmuring among during the pre-season about the replacement referees who have been called in to work because of the NFL’s ongoing labor dispute with the union representing NFL officials has turned into a firestorm. All weekend, the problems being created by the referees was all that the announcers were talking about, and now you’ve got owners and players joining in the chorus:

[E]ven Coach Pete Carroll later said of the labor impasse between the N.F.L. and its regular officials, “It’s time for it to be over.”

Carroll’s team, it should be noted, won the game. And while he did not publicly disagree with the call, he agreed with seemingly every other coach, player and pundit across the league in that the replacement officials should be replaced as soon as possible, whatever it takes, however it happens, with the real ones.

On the field afterward, Warren Moon, the Hall of Fame quarterback turned broadcaster, could only shake his head. He, too, had witnessed a game in which the teams combined for 26 points and the officials whistled 24 penalties, for 245 yards, or more than the 238 yards managed by the Seahawks.

“This could be the game that gets a deal done,” he said. “Something like this, on the league’s biggest stage, on Monday night, it’s just not good for the game. You could argue the officials had a hand in the outcome, that they cost Green Bay the game or would have cost the Seahawks.”

Seattle, it should also be noted, endured its share of botched and questionable calls Monday night. The Seahawks racked up as many penalties as points.

But it was the late calls, on the final play especially, that will be remembered. They marred an otherwise magical finish for the home team, football’s equivalent of a game-winning home run, and struck at the very integrity of the sport.

Twitter bubbled over as Monday night bled into Tuesday morning. Several Packers posted expletive-laced rants. Offensive guard T. J. Lang suggested the league fine him and use the money to pay the regular referees and later wrote that “any player/coach in Seattle that really thinks they won that game has zero integrity as a man and should be embarrassed.” Receiver Greg Jennings implored Tate to take a lie-detector test.

The Packers were not alone. Reggie Bush, the Miami running back, posted on Twitter that the “refs single-handedly blew this one.” Drew Brees, the New Orleans quarterback, wrote that “this is NOT the league we’re supposed to represent.” Even Jimmy Connors, the tennis legend, posted that while he loved the N.F.L. he would never bet on the sport again.

“The N.F.L. is a business, and it makes business decisions, but they never should have let this get into the season,” Moon said. “Those guys are in a difficult situation. The N.F.L. thought it could get away with replacement referees. And it’s backfiring on them.”

Logically, one would think that this would lead the NFL to get back to the negotiating table with the officials, get this dispute resolved, and get the professional officials back on the field. After all, we’re at the point now where a clearly blown call has impacted the outcome of a game. Admittedly, that has happened before in professional sports. After all, it was just two years ago that a bad call at first base by Umpire Jim Joyce robbed Armando Galarraga of a Perfect Game and a No-Hitter. On some level, I think, fans are able to accept the idea that referees are human beings and they are going to occasionally make mistakes, even ones that have a major impact on a game. However, this isn’t just one mistake, it was one of many in the same game, and one of many going back to the beginning of the season now. It is, in other words, impacting the integrity of the game.

However, notwithstanding the complaining, there’s one reason that the NFL may still maintain it’s hard line position with the union:

The management viewpoint is that the union was producing inefficiently high quality. There’s no sense investing top dollar in top flight officiating unless the customers actually value it. The volume of complaining about the officiating I saw in my twitter feed last night was both a testament to how poorly the replacement refs did and to how many people were nonetheless watching Monday Night Football. If revenues are going to be just as high working with scabs as working with the trained officials, then there’s no reason for the league to back down.

TV ratings seem to be holding up fine compared to last year but will that trend continue? Or will people start putting their remote controls where their mouths are and turn off the games?

Derek Thompson makes a similar point:

 The broad assumption is that this fateful play will hasten the end of the lockout. Maybe it should, and maybe it will. But from a business standpoint, the NFL doesn’t have much more reason to budge than it did 48 hours ago. TV ratings are at record-highs. Sunday night’s ratings were up 8% over a year ago. Viewers are furious, but they’re also viewers, and the fans’ indignation is more fleeting and harder to measure than ratings or ad dollars and TV licensing agreements.

“The NFL has essentially identified its product as being inelastic,” said Eben Jose, a sports business analyst at IBISWorld. “They have no reason to really push a deal with the refs because TV ratings are better than ever.”

Of course, the NFL has a keen interest in protecting its brand before it suffers a backlash (they already fired last night’s referees). But the league is also making a business calculation: If NFL fans keep watching replacement-ref games, how much do they really value the more expensive referees? Why should we pay more money for the same financial returns?

That’s really the rub, isn’t it? If people keep tuning into games in the coming weeks despite the bad calls, or if by some miracle these replacement referees, most of whom come from the lower end of the college football world it appears, start improving, what incentive will the NFL have to settle this. Fans, this is in your hands really, if you want the replacement referees gone, you’ll have to find a way to let the NFL know you’re upset that goes beyond complaining on Twitter while you’re watching the games.

FILED UNDER: General
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    It’s enough to even make Scott Walker support union members.

  2. legion says:

    One thing I don’t understand about this whole fiasco is the players themselves… The refs are clearly not in control of the field, and it’s becoming incredibly dangerous out there. The league has a certain responsibility to provide a safe workplace, does it not? Without competent refs on the field, if I were an NFL player, I’d be asking my lawyers if the league isn’t in breach of contract. If I were a player, or a coach for that matter, I’d be getting my colleagues together and telling Goodell en masse that weren’t going to be any more games played until he gets his sh*t settled with the refs and makes the field reasonably safe again.

  3. rodney dill says:

    The ruling on the field of touchdown then was confirmed upstairs by replay official Howard Slavin, a fulltime National Football League employee. A bad call, but not entirely the replacement officials. The upstairs replay official in not a replacement.

    It’s an imperfect art, and while I think the regular officials usually do a better job, everyone has seen some pretty botched calls in the past. I think they generally have gotten the ‘official review’ done better in the past. About three-four weeks after the regulars are back, there will be complaints that they aren’t any better than the replacements.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Where’s all the Union Bashers defending the Replacement Refs???

  5. Anderson says:

    Well, I’m not sitting through another game that’s going to be decided by incompetent scab refs who probably got fired by the Lingerie League. What a waste of my time … and the players’ time.

  6. DC Loser says:

    Ann Romney defended the replacement referees:

    “Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring!”

  7. Anderson says:

    @DC Loser: Shit, man, where do I sign up?

  8. J-Dub says:

    The last two Ravens games were notable for their bad officiating, which I’m sure holds true throughout the league. I was at the game against the Patriots and it was awful, although not necessarily biased against either team. The Ravens were just lucky to have come out on top.

    And then there is the scheduling, a Sunday night game followed by a Thursday night game? Who’s bright idea was that??? At least they are both at home so there isn’t any traveling but you know, some of us have to go to work the next day! Twice in one week, unreal.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    “…The management viewpoint is that the union was producing inefficiently high quality…”

    I’m actually a big fan of Yglesias…but he’s off base here.
    High Quality is by-and-large inefficient.
    But the American people will settle for lower quality.
    We always do.

  10. James Joyner says:

    First, I think people are romanticizing the regular officials. They blew calls all the time and replay took forever last year, too.

    Second, the reason the current refs are so noticeably worse is that the NFL was unable to draw from the next tier officials in the BCS ranks of college ball. If SEC and Big 12 officials were calling the games, nobody would even care.

    Third, just because the regular refs are better—which the NFL has never disputed—it doesn’t follow that they deserve to be paid whatever they demand. They’re already paid phenomenally well for part time workers.

  11. Anderson says:

    @James Joyner: All true, JJ, but what *are* the specific demands that the NFL says are unreasonable?

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    The broad assumption is that this fateful play will hasten the end of the lockout. Maybe it should, and maybe it will. But from a business standpoint, the NFL doesn’t have much more reason to budge than it did 48 hours ago.

    This is what Americans always misunderstand about capitalism. They assume that the markets will, if given free rein, find the “best” solution. But that’s not what markets do: markets just find the most efficient price for the delivery of goods and/or services.

    So if you leave it to the market, this is what you get: cheap, lousy officiating, so long as that lousy officiating doesn’t lose the NFL any real money. If you want high-quality officiating, you have to regulate for it.

  13. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: Except that, you know, the NFL has superb officiating every year in which there isn’t a labor dispute. And will again when this dispute is inevitably settled.

  14. @Rafer Janders:

    What your analysis is missing is determining what value the fans place on the quality of the officiating. As the two articles I linked above note, ratings for NFL games so far this season are the highest they have ever been. If that continues even after last night and the media attention that this issue is likely to get in sports media, then that would suggest that the fans don’t place as high a value on it as you seem to think they would. Which is, of course, their choice. As I noted above, I think that sports fans are willing to accept some level of controversy when it comes to officiating. If there is a controversy, it usually just turns into something that people talk about at the sports bar or on sports talk radio. It is, in other words, part of the game in some sense.

    So, in reality, the market is working after all.

  15. @legion:

    The refs are clearly not in control of the field, and it’s becoming incredibly dangerous out there.

    Be hard to make that case in court; regardless of how bad the reffing is, the only way that could be making the field less safe is if the players were deliberately taking advantage of it. It’s hard to argue you should be freed of the terms of a contact as a result of your own bad actions.

  16. @James Joyner:

    I tend to agree. As I said above, there have been officiating controversies in sports from the beginning. I think it’s becoming a story now because of the combination of the lockout and the fact that the announcers in the booth are pointing out the mistakes so loudly.

    As for the labor dispute itself, my understanding is that it involves the extent to which the NFL will continue contributing to a pension plan, a not uncommon dispute in the labor world with the added difference that these officials earn something like $160,000/year for officiating at as few as 13 games a year.

  17. G.A. says:

    Where’s all the Union Bashers defending the Replacement Refs???

    I won’t defend them, but I can bash the the greedy 1% commie union thug double dipping Refs if you would like.

    Refs 2 Packers 1

    Where did they get them Refs from the Wisconsin government accountability board?!?!?!?!?!?!?!Unions suck!!

  18. Doubter4444 says:

    But the league is also making a business calculation: If NFL fans keep watching replacement-ref games, how much do they really value the more expensive referees? Why should we pay more money for the same financial returns?

    This is why I hate Libertarianism.
    Good for the game? Who the F cares?
    I make mine and screw everything else.

    It sucks. In politics and sports. And in life.

  19. wr says:

    @James Joyner: Paid whatever they demand?

    The only reason for this lockout is that the owners of a multi-billion dollar business are trying to save a couple million dollars a year by stealing the refs’ pension plan.

    And they’re doing this not because of any economic hardship, but, as they explain, because other workers have lost their pension plans, so why shouldn’t the refs?

    And here you are, like clockwork, blasting the greedy workers for demanding more than they’re worth while tacitly endorsing yet another transfer of wealth from those who actually create that wealth — the workers — to the passive owners.

    Is this your ideal world, where everyone who works is paid as little as possible so a handful of billionaires can take more and more and more? Do you really think that this will lead to a stronger and more prosperous America?

  20. Motopilot says:

    @C. Clavin: Sounds like the Project Management Triangle, in which being able to only pick only two of three options among fast, good and cheap (because any two option combinations cancels out the third option), we pick the option of having something quickly and cheaply, but it will not be of high quality.

  21. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: So how much should the officials be allowed to earn in the Doug Mataconis libertarian paradise?

    Apparently $160,000 a year is too much for the poor, beleaguered billionaire team owners to share with these bottom-feeding parasites.

    Would you be happy with a minimum wage deal for the refs, or is that government manipulating the market?

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Except that, you know, the NFL has superb officiating every year in which there isn’t a labor dispute.

    But that’s exactly my point. They have superb officiating otherwise because it’s not a pure free market system. They pay them more than they need to in order to ensure quality above and beyond what a free market could provide.

  23. MM says:

    @Anderson: The officials want to keep their defined benefit plans instead of get moved to defined contribution. The NFL has also stated that they would like to be able to suspend officials who are performing below expectations. There are also apparently a few other small issues of dispute

    I suspect that the defined contribution/defined benefit change is 99.99% of the disagreement

  24. LCaution says:

    I don’t watch football, but is some kind of confirmation bias present here? Viewers know the refs are replacements, assume they are incompetent, so they are looking for and finding more errors?

    Even as a non-watcher, it seems to me as if after every game somebody complains about one call or another. Maybe there were fewer before because fans assumed the refs knew their job and now they don’t?

    Note: not a comment on the call in question just on the general issue of whether the replacement refs are being unjustly criticized because fans start with low expectations.

  25. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What your analysis is missing is determining what value the fans place on the quality of the officiating.

    No, that’s exactly what my analysis is addressing. The value that the fans place on the quality of the officiating is not easily assigned a monetary value, and so a pure free market won’t provide it.

    If that continues even after last night and the media attention that this issue is likely to get in sports media, then that would suggest that the fans don’t place as high a value on it as you seem to think they would. Which is, of course, their choice.

    Right, which is why, if you leave it to a dollars and cents analysis on the part of the league, the fans won’t get high value officiating. Capitalism is not designed to increase the pleasure of the consumer, it’s designed to find an efficient price.

  26. Midwestern Dad says:

    I turned on the game and saw the end but not the previous “bad” pass interference call.

    If I understand correctly, the labor dispute is over money. While the amount of money might be a large amount to a private individual, it is a tiny amount of the NFL’s massive profits. It frankly is extraordinarily stupid to not resolve the dispute, given the small amount of money it would take to do so. You can be critical of the regular refs but they are the best ones available. Like Winston Churchill on Democracy as a political system, the worst one except any other one. The real danger is that the replacement refs seem to have a problem controlling late hits and chippy play. If a top QB gets hurt by a late hit (See Broncos V Texans and Matt Schaub) then it will be a bad result.

    I will continue to watch NFL games. It may have an effect on borderline fans.

    As to the call itself, Golden Tate clearly pushed off on Sam Shields while the ball was in the air. That is offensive pass interference. The ref missed the call. It happens. Refs typically are reluctant to make calls on the last play of a game because they don’t want to be the reason for a win or loss. Didn’t work out so good here. I do not believe uncalled penalties are reviewable by the replay official. The dual possession call was a 60/40 call either way. It appears on live time that both players had possession of the ball at the same time. While the Packer player seemed to have “more possession”, if the Golden Tate, the Seattle wide out has equal possession, he gets the catch under the rule. That part of the call was at least arguably reasonable. They did miss a clear offensive interference call prior to that.

    I’m a Bears fan so that may color my view.

  27. MM says:

    @LCaution:

    I don’t watch football, but is some kind of confirmation bias present here? Viewers know the refs are replacements, assume they are incompetent, so they are looking for and finding more errors?

    Even as a non-watcher, it seems to me as if after every game somebody complains about one call or another. Maybe there were fewer before because fans assumed the refs knew their job and now they don’t?

    Note: not a comment on the call in question just on the general issue of whether the replacement refs are being unjustly criticized because fans start with low expectations.

    I don’t think so. Typically the criticisms are of the “how did he not see that” or “don’t call that and let them play” variety. These games have officials not knowing where to spot the ball, not understanding NFL rules, how far to mark off penalties, allowing players to throw punches without ejection, etc.

    These aren’t missed calls. These are people who are trying to officiate a game that is too fast for them and has rules that are slightly different than what they are used to.

  28. Anderson says:

    The refs don’t work long hours, but OTOH they turn out to have a pretty scarce skill-set.

  29. MM says:

    @LCaution: Also keep in mind that players get fined for badmouthing officials, so typically its rare for them to do it. After last night, the players don;t seem to be worried about repercussions at all. Chris Kluwe wrote an entire column for Deadspin about how bad the officials are. Clay Matthews is giving out Roger Goodell’s phone number on Facebook.

    These officials are about to lose the players and the coaches completely. You are either going to have two teams get in a riot level fight, or players refuse to suit up for fear of injury. Or fans resort to soccer hooliganism.

    Either will damage the brand far more than a few million dollars in pension costs.

    NOTE: I would support a team or a player deciding the officials are so dangerous that it’s not worth it to suit up. The other options are not something I condone, just things I think are about to happen

  30. Jib says:

    What exactly is the holdup on the agreement. I hear a lot of noise about greedy refs and greedy owners but I cant get very many details. The pension yes but there are other points, backup refs that are on call but not paid? Something about full time vs part time? Current refs are part time and make money in the off season but the league is asking them to be full time but not pay anymore? IS that right?

    The people being hurt by this is the owners. Every year, the difference between being in the playoffs and not is one game for several teams. Playoff teams make good extra money especially if you can get a home playoff game. The owners run the league so there are doing this to themselves.

    Games like last night wont end this but they do increase the frustration and lack of respect the players and coaches and fans have for the refs. Eventually, if this goes on long enough, the refs are going to lose control of a game. A meltdown where the refs leave the field and do not return. We are talking about a scene where fans are throwing things on the field and it is no longer safe to be on the field. After all, its a part time temp job. How much s#$t are you suppose to take until you say “I’m outta here”.

  31. C. Clavin says:

    “…these officials earn something like $160,000/year for officiating at as few as 13 games a year…”

    On the other hand Paul Ryan has been paid $174K for 13 years and has passed two bills…one naming a Post Office and one cutting taxes on arrows.
    Worth is relative.
    The Refs are obviously a key component of a $9B entertainment show…$160K seems like short money to me.

  32. Anderson says:

    Thanks, MM!

    ” The NFL has also stated that they would like to be able to suspend officials who are performing below expectations. ”

    Oh really? Since the scabs don’t have the union protections, let’s see who gets suspended after last night’s Fail Mary.

  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    Third, just because the regular refs are better—which the NFL has never disputed—it doesn’t follow that they deserve to be paid whatever they demand. They’re already paid phenomenally well for part time workers.

    “Third, just because they have egos even more bloated than their fat bellies or humongous Cayman Islands accounts, these blow hard douche bags we call “the owners”, don’t deserve the turd they are laying on the football field.”

    Fixed that for you James. So what if they are paid phenomenally well for part time workers. Most of these a$$holes owning the teams are part time owners and look at their compensation. What the refs are asking for wouldn’t be spit to the owners.

    Fwck the NFL. Haven’t watched a game yet this year, and I won’t.

  34. J-Dub says:

    @Doug Mataconis: NFL football appears on its face to be an inelastic product, although that is not possible since it is not the least bit necessary for basic survival and there are any number of alternatives.

    I suppose NFL football has not yet reached a point where people are ready to do something else with their time and money. Owners will continue to squeeze as many dollars out of the fans as they can until they reach equilibrium.

    This fiasco with the refs is damaging their brand though, and pushing people closer to that point unnecessarily.

  35. legion says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Yeah, that’s the part I’m not so sure about – there’s no shortage of people saying the replacements _stink_, but when you’re talking about inherently-dangerous contact sports, how bad does it have to get before it’s “too” dangerous? I’m sure there’s _some_ level of responsibility the NFL, as employer, has, but I don’t even want to think about how that would be defined in a contract…

  36. J-Dub says:

    Pensions used to be the norm. Hell, my grandfather sold shoes for a living and had a pension. I’m glad the refs are standing up against corporate greed that says pensions are no longer financially viable. That’s a cop-out and a money grab. Pensions are affordable if managed correctly.

  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What your analysis is missing is determining what value the fans place on the quality of the officiating. As the two articles I linked above note, ratings for NFL games so far this season are the highest they have ever been. If that continues even after last night and the media attention that this issue is likely to get in sports media, then that would suggest that the fans don’t place as high a value on it as you seem to think they would….So, in reality, the market is working after all.

    You’re also missing the fact that the fans aren’t the NFL’s customers: they are its product. The NFL does not exist, ultimately, to put on footballs games for fans. The NFL exists to deliver eyeballs to its real customers, who are the companies which advertise on NFL broadcasts. Professional football, in connection with television, is an attention-delivery system: we will show you a football game, and in return you watch these ads. The real money is not coming from the fans, but from the advertisers and the broadcast deals.

    So from a capitalist perspective, it’s completely irrelevant whether the fans are or are not happy, so long as they keep watching. If they watch, the NFL makes money. Which indicates, though, that the interests of the free market and the interests of football fans are not aligned.

  38. J-Dub says:

    @Rafer Janders: Interesting point. I now feel like I’m being used coming and going. I’m paying for the right to be bombarded with ads for useless crap.

    I suddenly have the urge for a Miller Lite…

  39. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    They’re already paid phenomenally well for part time workers.

    Who cares how many hours they work? This isn’t factory piecework, where the more widgets you make the more you get paid. The relevant metric is how rare and valuable their skill set is, and recent experience indicates that the skill set necessary to successfully officiate an NFL game is not easily replicable.

    You’re also making a mistake by counting only hours on the field. NFL refs in fact do most of their work invisibly, since they have to spend so much time studying and re-studying the rules and recertifying to stay current (and also travelling all over the country during the season). Here, for example, is ref Ken Hochuli on how he spends his time:

    “Reading. Rules. Lots of rules. N.F.L. referees have casebooks with literally thousands of play situations. We have tests every week that take five hours to finish. I study every day. When things happen on the field, I can’t stop and look it up.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/opinion/sunday/catching-up-with-ed-hochuli-a-locked-out-nfl-referee.html?_r=0

  40. James Joyner says:

    @Anderson: It’s actually scarce only because of artificial constraints. The last time this happened, the drop-off was quite small because the NFL was able to turn to major college officials. Now, though, NFL referees moonlight as heads of the BCS conference referees and ensured that the second-tier guys also supported the strike. That means the NFL was down to third- and fourth-tier officials. Who are still by and large doing a good job. I prefer the real refs, to be sure, but the impact on the game is marginal.

  41. J-Dub says:

    @James Joyner: Marginal? I’ve watched three Ravens games and I would argue that two were decided by bad calls/non-calls.

  42. Anderson says:

    Who are still by and large doing a good job.

    Well, there we must agree to disagree.

  43. Rafer Janders says:

    …these officials earn something like $160,000/year for officiating at as few as 13 games a year…”

    Keep in mind, also, that the average NFL owner makes something like $16,000,000/year* for putting on as few as 13 games a year, or about 100 time what the refs make. If we’re going to be using frequency of games as the standard, it seems to me as if it’s the owners, not the refs, who should be giving up pay in this scenario.

    *rough estimate, since it’s a bit hard to find this info.

  44. C. Clavin says:

    “…the impact on the game is marginal…”

    They have arguably decided games. How is that marginal impact? That word…marginal…might not mean what you think it means.

  45. @MM:

    You are either going to have two teams get in a riot level fight

    The players on both teams are adults, and no matter how bad the reffing gets, it doesn’t justify physical violence. If this statement is true, that’s more a problem with the players than the referees.

    Does your boss have to pay someone to follow you around at work to keep your from getting into a brawl with your co-workers?

  46. Gustopher says:

    The players really should be showing a lot more solidarity with the referees.

    The Players Union may have signed away their rights to strike in response to the lockout of the referees, but there’s nothing that requires the players to try their hardest. Make every game a fiasco.

  47. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin @J-Dub: @Anderson: Refs decide games all the time with calls and non-calls. NFL games are typically close. There are bad calls literally every single game even with the regular officials.

    @wr: I’m not taking sides here; I don’t have enough information on the accounting to know how much the refs should be paid, what benefits they deserve, and so forth. My point is simply that there’s a labor dispute going on and the fact that the regular officials are better than the replacement officials doesn’t translate into “and therefore they should get whatever they’re demanding.”

  48. Rafer Janders says:

    Does your boss have to pay someone to follow you around at work to keep your from getting into a brawl with your co-workers?

    Actually, yes, most large organizations have those. They are called HR departments. Large organizations also often have security on-site.

    And c’mon, this is a little facile. Football is a game which involves getting large men to run into each other at high speed. To deny that this requires more than the usual level of aggression, and that that level of aggression has to be managed, is just not realistic about human nature. The fighting instinct can’t be turned on and off with a switch.

  49. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    My point is simply that there’s a labor dispute going on and the fact that the regular officials are better than the replacement officials doesn’t translate into “and therefore they should get whatever they’re demanding.”

    Yes, but our point is that your first instinct always seems to focus on “and therefore the workers shouldn’t get whatever they’re demanding” rather than “and therefore the owners shouldn’t get whatever they’re demanding.”

  50. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    They’re already paid phenomenally well for part time workers.

    They’re not being paid for their time on the field. They’re being paid for the thousands of hours of study and experience that they carry within their head onto the field, and their ability to deploy that study and experience in real time in a chaotic environment.

  51. @Rafer Janders:

    I’m sure the NFL teams have HR and security. I’m referring to the assertion that the brawls are being caused by the refs not controlling the game, as those football players are some sort of wild animals that should be expected to start fighting anytime their trainer turns his back for a momment. That’s degrading and I don’t think an accurate reflection of the players. Yes they’re aggresive. But they’re not barbarians.

  52. C. Clavin says:

    “…Refs decide games all the time with calls and non-calls…”

    You’re tap-dancing.
    Troy Aikman:

    “…These games are a joke…”

    Mike Tirico:

    “…We don’t want to talk about the officials, trust us, but it’s affecting the game. When we meet with teams and coordinators, frustration boils out into limited on-the-record statements. Off the record, what guys are saying — it’s a nightmare. It is impacting the game. It hasn’t burned a team to cost them a playoff spot yet. But you should go back and watch the film. There are so many little things that players are getting away with that is absolutely impacting the game to the detriment of the product…”

  53. LC says:

    From Salon.com
    How Ayn Rand is Wrecking Football

    NFL owners chose to lock out the sport’s referees because they’re trying to squeeze an extra $4,000 in revenues per game out of their cozy little $9 billion per year cartel arrangement.
    . . .
    It’s hard to grasp what that means, but put it this way: If a billionaire lost $4,000 in his couch cushions, it wouldn’t be worth it to him to dig around for the money. To a billionaire, $4,000 is, in economic terms, literally nothing. It’s a rounding error on the balance sheet of one of the many people he pays to keep track of such details. It adds no “marginal utility,” as economists say, to his already grotesque plentitude.

    But $4,000 per game adds up, you say. A penny saved is a penny earned. Waste not, want not. Wrong. To a billionaire, $62,000 per year (which is what Ford and his ilk stand to lose if they get no concessions at all from the employees they’re locking out) is again literally nothing. It’s like a quarter to an ordinary person. Would you stop to pick up a quarter lying on the sidewalk? Probably not if you were in a hurry. That’s how William Clay Ford feels about a $62,000 bill.
    . . .
    The thing is, this fight isn’t really about $62,000 per year.
    . . .
    Ungrateful “moochers” like NFL referees – mere laborers who, unlike the captains of industry who deign to pay their wages, have failed to climb to the top of our ruthlessly meritocratic social pyramid — need to be shown their place.

  54. That Salon article is the silliest piece of nonsense ever written

  55. An Interested Party says:

    If for nothing else, this thread has been interesting in that it has revealed the way that James, Doug, and people like them think…is it any wonder that unions have been decimated in this country and that so many jobs have gone elsewhere…but hey, it’s all about the sacrosanct “free” market…

  56. An Interested Party says:

    It’s enough to even make Scott Walker support union members.

    Apparently a liberal is now a conservative whose home team has been screwed by shoddy officiating…

  57. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    That Salon article is the silliest piece of nonsense ever written

    Cogent and well-argued. You’ve changed my mind!

  58. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So, in reality, the market is working after all.

    I keep coming back to this in my mind, because it illustrates how you’re so often able to misunderstand an argument and get the wrong end of the stick. I never said the market isn’t working — in fact, part of my argument is that the market is, indeed, working.

    But when a market “works”, it only works to set an efficient price. It doesn’t necessarily work to make the product or services better or more enjoyable for the users. the market makes a business call: how little can we pay the referees, and how much can we degrade the officiating, and still expect the fans to watch? If they don’t lose enough fans, then the market won’t value better paid and better trained referees, and will keep using scabs. In this case, the market will have “worked.”

    But this shows the danger of favoring market solutions for everything, for in this case, a market that works is a market that provides a more inferior product for fans. What the fans want — good officiating — and what the market is willing to provide at the most efficient cost are not the same things. So if the fans want it, then the owners actually have to distort the market and pay more than market price.

    Or, in shorter terms, sometimes you have to pay for pleasure.

  59. C. Clavin says:

    “…That Salon article is the silliest piece of nonsense ever written…”

    Pot…meet Kettle.

  60. @LC:

    From Salon.com
    How Ayn Rand is Wrecking Football

    Apparently Ayn Rand is now the right-wing-bogeyman counterpart to Saul Alinksy.

  61. Clanton says:

    Two more weeks of this stuff and the NFL will be in total disaster.

  62. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis: And yet the numbers in it kinda speak for themselves. Simply the amount of time Roger Goodell himself has spent dealing with this sh*tstorm, as an hourly charge against his salary, is probably greater than the amount of money the league would save if the regular refs caved today. It’s demonstrably _not_ a business decision, it’s a personal, union-busting decision that Goodell has prioritized over the income & well-being of the league itself.

  63. @Rafer Janders:

    There is never a guarantee that, in a free market, the “superior” product (however one defines that ) will be the successful one. The economic choices that individual consumers make are entirely subjective and based on factors that you simply cannot put down on a spreadsheet. In this case, NFL fans are face with the choice of either skipping the Sunday ritual of watching their favorite sport, or watching anyway and putting up with some bad officiating. There is no right or wrong choice in this case.

  64. @Stormy Dragon:

    I think it’s more a matter of the fact that players are quite obviously taking advantage of the fact that these refs are inexperienced to get away with things that they’d be called on if experienced NFL referees were watching them.

  65. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “There is no right or wrong choice in this case. ”

    As long as you don’t believe that a small group of billionaires using their monopoly powers to slash the pay of loyal employees who have done no wrong in times of huge economic growth simply because they believe they have the power to do it is wrong.

    Of course, if you do believe such an abuse of power is wrong, you wouldn’t be a libertarian. If you believe that there is a moral component to economic transactions, and that some actions are objectively morally wrong, you couldn’t claim to worship the free market while actually using this sociopathic “philosophy” to suck up to the mega-rich at the expense of the nation.

    And astonishingly enough, there are people here who wonder why the Gary Johnsons of the world can’t get any traction politically. Here’s a hint: If your economics and politics are more loathesome than Charlie Manson’s, odds are you’re not getting the presidency.

  66. Graham says:

    @James Joyner:

    I prefer the real refs, to be sure, but the impact on the game is marginal.

    Clearly you’re not a Packer fan, James.

  67. MM says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I was unaware that I stuttered when I said this:

    The other options are not something I condone, just things I think are about to happen

  68. Clanton says:

    I hope this same crew works the Chicago-Dallas game on Oct. 1. Then the Bears might have a chance.

  69. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    I know that fans take these kinds of blunders much more seriously than I do. My father never allowed me to see sport as more than a game. In fact, the first time I mouthed off to a referee in a game, my father made it quite clear that future repetitions would result in a basketball-less future for me. The lack of the NFL’s first team officials leaves fans feeling shorted or at least with a diminished sense of the elite-ness of the game they are viewing. Fans and commentators seem committed to paying a deal of attention to this burr under their saddle, but they are not parties to the contract. I don’t see hear anyone suggesting that fans and commentators pass the plate and take up a collection for the lock-out officials so it can’t really be too serious a situation now, can it ???

    And if I may insert a bit of my own agenda in regard to the “National” Football League, many players in the league have affected the wearing of some kind of close fitting head-wear under their helmets. It seems that the “National” Football League, which apparently has any number of rules about the appropriateness of head-wear, finds it acceptable that this couture be worn during the playing of our National Anthem, perhaps due to the complexity of removing it and replacing it so shortly before the beginning of the game, or maybe Just because, well, their “National” isn’t that kind of National.

    (And, my regards to the Oakland Raiders who, this past Sunday, allowed a group to sing the National Anthem, one of whose members wore a baseball cap and another a beret.)

    I can certainly understand that this is probably some branding complexity that remains beyond my intellectual grasp, but when you call yourself a “National” anything and put all those cute little flag stickers on every player’s helmet, why not go whole hog and require appropriate courtesy in regard to our National Anthem.

  70. An Interested Party says:

    Hey, it’s no big deal that the owners in the NFL don’t want to cut the refs in for any more slices of the rather large NFL pie, even if that leads to terribly called games…but, if anyone at an NFL game dares to wear anything above the neck during the playing of the National Anthem, well, that’s the end of this great Republic…a sad nation weeps…

  71. wr says:

    @11B40: I have to say I envy you. If your life is so perfect that you have time in it to worry about whether or not football players remove every vestige of headgear when the national anthem is playing, then things are indeed good for you. May they continue that way for many years!

  72. Lit3Bolt says:

    @wr:

    My question is do the scab refs make the owners even more liable for injuries and concussions? There’s lots of damning video evidence and stats that these refs cannot control the game and enforce safety (such as it is) in the NFL game. It’s like having an boxing match with a high school teacher officiating.

  73. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Doubter4444:

    Personal responsibility, morality, and society is for consumers, not owners.

  74. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “Refs decide games all the time with calls and non-calls. NFL games are typically close. There are bad calls literally every single game even with the regular officials. ”

    Please, don’t try the argument that ‘nothing’s perfect, so nothing matters’.

  75. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “That Salon article is the silliest piece of nonsense ever written ”

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    No, it’s rather sound. If it were really just about the money, the owners would haven’t done all of this.

  76. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There is never a guarantee that, in a free market, the “superior” product (however one defines that ) will be the successful one.

    Right, which has been my point all along. But this is something Americans often fail to grasp, confusing the successful product with the superior one. Sometimes the successful product is just the cheapest, most inferior one.

    The economic choices that individual consumers make are entirely subjective and based on factors that you simply cannot put down on a spreadsheet.

    Again, that’s my point. If you let dollars and cents determine every decision, you won’t necessarily maximize your consumers’ happiness.

    In this case, NFL fans are face with the choice of either skipping the Sunday ritual of watching their favorite sport, or watching anyway and putting up with some bad officiating. There is no right or wrong choice in this case.

    And here’s where we disagree. To watch is to support the use of scab labor, and reward the owners for their tactic of trying to gouge the refs for a few pennies that the owners will never even notice. It’s to condone a blatant abuse of power. In a dispute between the powerful and the weak, there’s quite often a right and a wrong choice.