As a young man in my early 20’s, I was an aspiring…nothing.
Fresh and on the streets after a 4 year stint in the Navy, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And as long as I still had the enormous bankroll that I had acquired from being out to sea for much of that 4 years, I was just a goofy kid out on a lark every day.
The party lifestyle soon dried up my liquidity and I quickly found myself in need of money – so I took a job as a dishwasher in an upscale restaurant. Many times was I called upon to watch a simmering pot, or to crack a case of eggs – nothing big….
One morning two of the cooks called out and the Chef pressed me into service. He gave me a brief low-down on how to flip an egg in a pan and I found myself right in the middle of this controlled chaos, the Chef robotically calling out orders like a cadence, “Western Omelet” or “Two over easy” were my keys. I did the best I could given my 30 seconds of culinary training, but my efforts were not good enough for one of the waitresses, a surly 30 something brute of a woman who always treated everyone (Except the Chef) as if they were trying to get something over on her.
As she screamed at me for overcooking an egg, the Chef’s voice boomed over hers, shocking everyone in the kitchen, “Give him a break” he shouted, “He’s a dishwasher, he’s doing the best he can.” – she screamed even more loudly that she could do it better…
Watching the games this weekend, listening to the commentators, listening to the fans, reading comments on the few football pages that I frequent on Facebook, I could sit back, close my eyes and see that chunky, foul-mouthed incorrigible waitress telling me that I wasn’t good enough, then opening my eyes and witnessing the same thing happening to the replacement referees. From being in this position, which many of us have, shouldn’t we feel a bit of empathy for the poor slobs that have been pressed into service?
But I digress. I had zero experience.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but football is football. It isn’t like the NFL went out and hired a bunch of Kelly Girls. They hired people who have been officiating football games for a while now, and it makes one wonder if the football players in Division 3 schools are getting jobbed just as badly as the Patriots and Packers did this past weekend.
The NFL has recruited these High School and Division 3 college referees to fill in for the locked out Professional referees. Just as I had been pressed into service that fateful morning, so have these men. I was horrible, and they are horrible.
And the “Speed of the game is different” or the “Rules are much more complex” argument, doesn’t hold water in anyone’s eyes – not any more, not after the carnage that we witnessed this past weekend.
Pass Interference is Pass Interference. Holding is Holding. A kick is either good, or it is not. When your Quarterback throws an interception in the end zone, your team doesn’t get 6 points.
At first, the sentiment was “Give them a break, they’re high school and college Refs doing the best they can.”, and I bought into that – some of the rules, I thought, are different and the speed of the game is a little faster. But that sentiment has quickly evolved into “these guys suck and they have to go”, which I now buy into, and something that should give pause to both combatants in this filthy drama. Which brings us to the crux of the problem.
In any negotiation, there must, be design, be two sides.
On one side, we have the National Football League. The Shield. The entity that brings us a game that’s sometimes larger than life, a corporation which funnels Billions of dollars through it’s coffers annually, and makes a tidy proifit – and on the other, we have the unions, the Referee’s Union in this instance.
The NFL, as condition of employment, wants some of it’s referees to be full-time employees with annual salaries consisting of numbers with 6 digits. The NFL wants to discontinue their pension plans and, in it’s place, is offering a 401K. The NFL wants to add 3 more officiating crews to their employ, stating that it would reduce travel stress and improve the quality of the officiating by enabling them to smoothly weed out a referee who is not performing up to par…
On the other side we have the Referee’s Union. Professional referees come from all walks of life. Some are Lawyers, some are business owners. Many make more money from their “Day Jobs” than they do from officiating games.
Many are wealthy and have their own pensions or 401k’s already in place. The referees have countered that they would accept the Retirement plan restructuring provided all current employees remain on the current plan (which the league has balked at). Many are in business to succeed, and are all about replacing employees that are not performing in a manner which is acceptable.
So…what’s the problem here?
It’s difficult to fault the NFL for wanting to run their business like a business. It’s difficult to fault the NFL for wanting their product on public display. It’s not difficult to fault the referees union for declining to adhere to what on the surface seems to be the same demands that the referees put on their own people, or are demanded of them in their “Day Jobs”.
That is in-your-face hypocrisy.
The only demand that the NFL is making that could be considered unreasonable is wanting a small number of thier referees to be full-time employees, essentially having to give up control of their practices or businesses. There are no such demands on the players. They could bag groceries in the off season if they chose, and no one would care so long as they showed up for training camp in shape and ready to ball.
Neither side is willing to budge, so we are left with what amounts to 1700 Chefs being scrutinized and supervised by a handful of dishwashers, being screamed at by surly waitresses – and the results are predictable:
The eggs aren’t cooked right.