A lesson can be learned from the recent lockout of the NFL Referees Association.
In this time of cutbacks and tightening of budgets, a multibillion dollar industry that is earning billions of dollars in profits every year decided it was time to do what was being done by federal, state and local governments that are having shortcomings.
The NFL decided that it could get away with locking out the officials. After all everybody boos them on a plethora of occasions at every game. When they make a close call they make half of the spectators and audience angry. They have a job that everybody thinks they can do better.
A sport is that way. When somebody comes to your house to rid it of rodents or insects very few people say, “Boy I wish that I could have that job.”
The same is true with most occupations. When people see a construction worker working on a high rise, or a firefighter running into a burning building, or a marine walking patrol with 80 pounds-plus of gear on his/her back in 100 degree heat, very few want to do those jobs.
However, many people think they could do a better job than an athlete who drops a pass or fly ball or looks at a third strike. Most of the talk show junkies think they can do a better job of coaching than Norv Turner, Bud Black, Rocky Long, or Steve Fisher. We all know (and so do they) that they can’t. However, in this “reality show, call a radio station, and talk show society” we have more critics than we need.
The NFL thought the same. The league couldn’t get the Division I (FBS) officials or Division II (FCS) officials. They had too much integrity. They had made commitments and money could not stop them from honoring commitments. So the NFL found guys and a gal who had retired, or didn’t get hired, or were drummed out of the Lingerie League and gave them jobs officiating football at its highest level. They were ill-prepared for their assignments and the NFL knew that. But they were cheap and the NFL is a business and not a sport so owners and the front office of the NFL found a way to save money.
The replacement officials were not up to the task. That alone did not bother the higher-ups in the NFL. They knew that when they hired them. They gambled that the fans of their product would not know the difference between trained professionals and makeshift replacements. The ratings were high after two weeks so the NFL believed that everything was okay and they were saving money, even though they had that money to spend.
Let me simplify the problem. Let’s say that the NFL quarterbacks were locked out because they wanted more money and a fair retirement. If the NFL tried to replace the locked-out athletes with high school quarterbacks, Division III quarterbacks or lingerie league quarterbacks like they did with the officials, the results would be about the same. Imagine if they replaced the offensive linemen with high school, DIII or lingerie linemen. Athletes’ health would be in danger like they were with the replacement officials.
We are not talking about taxpayer’s money. We are talking about the money of millionaires and billionaires who all say they did not get in the business of football to make money.
When the incompetence of the officials started affecting the outcome of the games and the integrity of the NFL, negotiations accelerated and a solution was found.
Hopefully we can apply the lesson learned from the greed of the NFL to other aspects of life. The recent Chicago teachers’ strike comes to mind. Teaching and coaching are professions that most people think they can do and want to do, much like being an official or athlete.
The teachers were castigated for the failures of the Chicago city schools. It would be politically incorrect to place the blame on the failure of the schools, where it belongs, so let’s blame the teachers. High crime rates, single- and no-parent families, lack of importance of education in the home and community, and abject poverty are not things that politicians want to admit in an election year. Let’s blame the teachers and police officers. Anyone can do his/her job.
Everyone has had a good teacher and remembers how easy that teacher made what he/she was doing look; the same with a coach. The great athletes make what they do look easy. Watch a marathon runner and then look at a layman running on the streets. Watch old clips of Walter Payton, Joe DiMaggio, Michael Jordan, or Tiger Woods. They make it look easy. It isn’t.
When any administrator in any business has to make cuts, make sure that those cuts do not result in a loss of public safety. Make sure that the cuts don’t hurt the students who really want to learn. Make sure that the integrity of the business is not compromised. The NFL did not do that. Will you when the time comes to make tough decisions?