Sept 24, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Referee Wayne Elliott (28) speaks with field judge Richard Simmons (102) before making a ruling on a call between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

The NFL's Hard Lesson Learned: Be careful where you step...

Now, was that so hard?

For months the NFL and the Referee’s Union have been locked in a death struggle over pensions, salaries and the like – months of the refs being locked out, constant bitching and whining from both sides, rude dissension from all involved.

The NFL told us that we would still have games, which was cool.

We didn’t care.  I mean, these were referees, right?  Football is football.  No matter what level, the fundamentals are the same.  The Pro game is different from what the replacement refs were used to, but the dynamics were the same.  Use the preseason games as training games for the replacement refs and everything will be fine.

So when the preseason started and the replacement refs began their 2 month struggle to grasp the nuances of the professional game, we looked at them like new puppies:  They were uncoordinated, couldn’t see very well and left messes all over the field.  It was cute, we said.  Things will be OK once they grow into the job.

But as the preseason evolved into the regular season, we saw that the cute puppies had not been trained as well as we would have liked.  They were a bit more coordinated, but didn’t seem to want to cooperate with each other.  They still couldn’t see very well, and they left bigger messes all over the field, and the NFL was left holding the bag, so to speak.

The NFL defended their new breed, not giving in to the rude grumblings from the neighbors about the steamers on their property, about the trash being strewn everywhere, about the pitiful whining.

They’re still young, the league told us, they will get better. 

But they didn’t.  As they grew into the role, the disobedience became more pronounced, the messes became larger, the garbage became overwhelming…and the big dogs, the coaches, started bearing their teeth, barking incessantly at the new refs, some even snipping.  The entire kennel was in chaos…

…Then a Monday night in Seattle.

The weekly national showcase of the NFL was in the Emerald City.  ESPN cameras were rolling and everyone in the country (except Jerry Jones) was glued to the tube for the showdown between the Seahawks and the fearsome Green Bay Packers.  It was a defensive struggle, the young defensive brutes of the Seahawks pummeling the superstar quarterback of the Packers to the tune of 8 sacks in the first half.

Yellow flags were flying everywhere and, just as had been the case since the beginning of the replacement ref debacle, the game had so many stoppages for penalties and review that it had no flow to it.  And just when the contest had mercifully reached the final seconds and Seattle had one last chance to mount a drive to win the game, a turning point was reached that would settle the labor dispute between the NFL and it’s referees.

On the final play of the game, Seahawk Quarterback Russell Wilson lofted a high, arching spiral toward the end zone where a group of his teammates mixed with Green Bay defenders were gathered, awaiting the ball.

What happened next instantly became the stuff of legend, and it became clear that it was time to take the puppies on a one-way drive to the country.  No need to revisit the play, dubbed “The Inaccurate Reception” by the national media – the entire fiasco has been documented, ad nauseum…

Still, neither side in the labor struggle could agree on anything except that the integrity of the most popular sport in the civilized world was disintegrating before their eyes, and that if they wanted to save the sport they needed to start conceding demands – rapidly.

48 hours later, Labor peace.

The American public can tolerate just about anything, unless it’s a brace of unruly puppies leaving stinky messes all over their football fields.  Fortunately, the NFL finally recognized this, and broke out the baggies, achieving labor peace for the next 8 years.

Hopefully, both sides have learned to tread lightly when dealing with the integrity of the game – otherwise, they might step in something so repulsive that the American public wants nothing to do with them any longer.

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Tags: Green Bay Packers NFL NFL Lockout Seattle Seahawks

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