Some foul calls by replacement referees led to much gnashing of teeth and crushing of beer cans around the country this week. Union referees had been locked out by N.F.L. managers (they’ve since settled their differences), and the temporary zebras running the field seemed to be using a rule book devised by Hal Roach. Fans and players alike took to the twitter-sphere to express their disgust after a series of memorable midfield maldecisions. Nowhere was the horror more keenly felt than in Wisconsin, after the beloved Green Bay Packers had a win stolen by a fumbled decision as time ran out against the Seattle Seahawks.

Football and unionism make strange bedfellows. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Congressman and V.P. candidate Paul Ryan, not exactly notable fans of all things unionized, experienced fourth-down conversions in grudging acknowledgments that the professional, unionized refs were clearly missed on America’s football fields of glory. “After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs,” Gov. Walker tweeted to the malicious delight of public sector workers—and fans of irony—throughout the cheesehead region.

“Give me a break. It is time to get the real refs,” said Congressman Ryan before finding a way, somehow, to compare the hapless refs to the president’s handling of the economy. Perhaps the greatest reality stretching came from radio personality Rush Limbaugh who at various points blamed the poor on-field performances on American liberalism, affirmative action, and, of course, President Obama before asserting that the replacement refs were just as competent as the union pros they covered for (#cuzunionsarealwaysbad?).

It’s doubtful that the scandal on the Astroturf will lead to a union revival in America. As the private sector completes its final discard of union employees, public sector unionized workers will no doubt remain the target of a plutocrats’ blitz. The referee kerfuffle, however, reminds that something does actually remain sacrosanct in America: Sunday afternoon. You’re still all on your own Sunday morning.

Comments

David Pasinski | 9/27/2012 - 4:34pm
As a baseball fan (and my Red Sox tanked this year so I'm ina grumpy mood!), I don't care much...but I find it really depressing that Obama et al bother weighing in on this at all. Meanwhile,in Israel... and Afghanistan... and Libya... etc. etc.

plus, I plain feel badly for those refs - like the ump that blew the call on the no-hitter last year... live with...

It's sports, folks!!!!
Rick Fueyo | 9/27/2012 - 3:36pm
I am extremely pro union, but that was my inclination as well, to wonder whether the latest obvious demonstration of the professionalism of the union officials would lead more of the populace to reconsider their cultivated and influenced hatred of unions.
 
I actually went one step further. The primary sticking point was not wages, wanting to change from a defined benefit to defined contribution pension system.  The union did not like their pensions being unilaterally altered; the league correctly stated that it was the trend, and all the rest of their employees were going the same.
 
I just found it sad because there was no argument considering the wisdom of the fact that it is a general trend toward defined contribution plans. It was again the employer with the power.
 
A quick read of Retirement Heist by Ellen Schultz is eye-opening. It's amazing how companies complain about the pressure on the pension systems, after they legally looted those same pension systems. 
 
Hopefully we will get a legal conscience in these practices will change
Mike Brooks | 9/27/2012 - 1:39pm
I don't see how this incident is an argument in favor of unions; to me, it just shows how unions hold companies hostage, disrputing their ability to conduct business, and inconveniencing their customers.  What they should have done is fire all the union refs and hire them back at whatever wages the market would dictate.  There would be a few more games where the susbstitute refs would be needed, but, frankly, who cares how bad they are, since both teams are equally subject to their calls. 

Also, by breaking up the union, some of the substitute refs, who are likely better than the union refs, could get jobs that they would otherwise be shut out of because the union protects substandard officials.  If you want the best employess, which clearly is what this issue was about, you get rid of the unions altogether and establish merit-based standards.
J Cosgrove | 9/27/2012 - 1:21pm
When the play in question happened they must have played it back 30 times.  It was surreal  The referee made the right call on the catch.  All the referees missed the obvious offensive pass interference which would have given the game to Green Bay automatically.  


The actual play was not an interception because if both have their hands on the ball the decision goes to the offensive player.  The original player getting the ball has to maintain possession through the process.  He didn't.  By the time the referee got to the ball it was a tug of war in the pile and the only legitimate call was a touchdown.  It it had happened in the middle of the field at another point in the game, the whole discussion would have been on what constitutes possession and a catch and just be of interest to football fans.  Because it ended the game it became a national discussion.


If the player had just batted the ball down and not had tried to catch the ball the whole thing would be mute and not the conversation that has permeated everywhere this week.  Interesting, one of the points the NFL wants in its negotiations is to ensure they get good referees by having more officiating crews so they can get rid of those not performing.  They recognize that the regular referees are often not the best  and need to be weeded out.