Sep 262012

So it looks like the real NFL officials are coming back to work…

Am I too into this sport that I actually felt my blood pressure drop when I heard Chris Mortensen on ESPN this morning? Maybe, maybe not. I know I felt my blood pressure rise on Sunday night when phantom call after phantom call penalized the Patriots and turned the hole they had dug for themselves even deeper. But then Monday night took the cake when I watched the replacement officials quite literally hand a game to the Seattle Seahawks. So thank you to the Green Bay Packers for taking one for the league and for the fans, because it would appear that the nightmare scenario of the replacement refs giving a game away was what it took to prompt the NFL to come to an agreement.

Roger Goodell and the owners who refused to compromise with the officials should be ashamed of themselves. Not so much because the lockout took place, but because they knew a lockout was coming and did nothing… absolutely nothing… to prepare for it. Instead of preparing to use Division I officials months in advance, the league sat on its collective ass until the arrival of the lockout, and then filled the gaps with people who had actually been dismissed from the Lingerie Football League for being poor officials, as well as high school and low level college officials. Such a failure to prepare is unacceptable for people that are running a multi-billion dollar industry. And the NFL will wear a big smile on its collective face and act like the league did the right thing for the game, when in actuality they did nearly everything wrong. And no one will be held accountable.

For those with short memories, the 2011 season was nearly destroyed because the NFL allowed its lawyers to posture and posture and posture with the players, playing a PR game instead of negotiating in good faith. Only when Robert Kraft and a few others stepped in (and kicked the attorneys out) was progress made and an agreement reached. It took the efforts of reasonable people to get a deal done in 2011, and I don’t consider Roger Goodell to be one of those reasonable people. While I had previously been a fan of Goodell’s “get tough on player misconduct” approach, even that has not been done in an even handed and consistent way, and the recent striking down of Goodells’ bounty sanctions against several players indicate that he is not one to follow proper protocol or overly worry about due process. While I am convinced that the Saints did something wrong in terms of payment for injury, I am equally convinced that Goodell botched the process and de-legitimized the league’s response to very serious misconduct.

To paint with a broad brush, my recent impression of Roger Goodell is that he is a power-hungry dictator who approaches all matters with a “my way or the highway” approach. And while Goodell excels at bleeding every dollar of profit that he can for the NFL, he is inept at forming relationships, partnerships, and acting as a true ambassador of the game. To try and be fair to Goodell, he is exactly the type of executive that many of the owners wanted, and he was hired to manage in the way that he is. I have no doubt that owner confidence in Goodell is still high. But player confidence and fan confidence in the Commissioner have seemingly been eroding for some time, and Goodell’s willingness to sit idly by while the integrity of the game was laid waste for these past three weeks – all for the purpose of breaking the referee’s union – calls into question Goodell’s true commitment to player safety and his fitness to serve as the NFL Commissioner. It was Roger Goodell’s agenda, not the agenda of the owners, to improve officiating, and the net result of Goodell’s actions will be no significantly improved officiating while sacrificing three weeks of an NFL season to sub-standard… no… piss poor officiating. It is my hope that Commissioner Goodelll’s actions, and worse his inaction in preparing for a lockout, will lose enough of the confidence of league owners to push for his resignation. I won’t hold my breath waiting for it, but I do have a birthday coming up…

Side Notes:

– Another long-held grudge against the NFL’s business practices… In 2004, EA signed an exclusive license through 2009 with the NFL and the NFLPA to give the company the exclusive rights to use the NFL’s teams, stadiums, and players in a video game. This exclusive license prevents other official NFL video games. The deal, reportedly worth $300 million and later extended to 2013, has been widely criticized as it created a monopoly for NFL gaming and squashed competitive NFL game platforms. To make matters worse, since Madden ’08, EA Sports has not bothered to release a pc version of the game due to lower sales than platforms such as XBox, PS3, and Wii, computer gamers have been without an NFL product to enjoy. The league could care less, and EA Sports has no plans to reverse course. Thus, those of us who have high-performing pc systems with superior graphics who enjoyed the strategy of NFL football are left to want. It’s no wonder that I haven’t bought an EA product in five years.

– Thanks to all of the new visitors we have had to the site during the officials’ lockout. Our site hits have soared, particularly as we called for a boycott on October 4th, which will be off if they get the deal done later today or tomorrow. I rather suspect that it will get done after the Monday night debacle. Anyway, we had no desire for glory in calling for the boycott, but if we have a platform to help fans mobilize, then we should use it if the game we love is being negatively impacted. Thanks to those of you who assisted with our boycott preparations, most notably our Twitter followers and Mike at Patriots Life. We’re not sure yet, but it looks like we’ll go back to being a sleepy little NFL fan blog… and we are just fine with that!

Ghost Rat

Football fan and longtime follower of the New England Patriots. Happily married father, professional, and author.

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