A Big Deal Off The Field?

September 25, 2012 2:22 p.m.

TPM Reader CM thinks we’re missing the significance of what happened last night on the gridiron …

I’m a huge fan of TPM (sort of religious about reading pretty much every article you publish), but this morning, I’m a little surprised you guys are not reporting on what is, in my opinion, a HUGE story: the Seattle/Green Bay Monday Night Football game. Normally, I would understand why something like this would not make the cut on a political news site, but if you caught the game and were around on facebook or twitter afterwards, you might have seen the significant public response over the officiating–and how all of that response is tied directly to the public perception of the fight over union rights and wages.

The prevailing conservative storyline has always been that union members are no better than non-union members (or are even WORSE at their jobs than their non-unionized counterparts), and they have simply organized themselves into this impenetrable bloc of power (with the support of liberal democrats who despise employers) and are now receiving “special” consideration–in the form of higher wages and better benefits–that they don’t deserve. The most crucial part of that entire storyline is that these union members don’t DESERVE higher wages–that they feel “entitled” to higher wages and the actual union structure (the legal entity some liberal created a long, long time ago) is a relic of the past that is now wreaking havoc on present employers who have to choose between bankruptcy (from threatended strikes) or meeting the unions’ ridiculous demands (which will also cause bankruptcy).

Now consider this: last night, we got to see firsthand that union refs are FAR better than non-union refs. We got to see over and over AND OVER again that the unsung heroes of the NFL are not the savvy and entreprenuerial business-owners, but the officiating crews. We got to see that the job they do is actually (surprise) difficult. And the resounding, deafening roar on twitter and facebook (from a predominantly non-liberal crowd of football enthusiasts) was “Why won’t Roger Goodell just pay the striking union refs what they’re worth?”. You see, no one believes for a second that the NFL is on the verge of bankruptcy. We know it’s a cash cow for the owners. And last night, it suddenly became clear that the choice is not between self-important union refs and cash-strapped NFL owners, but rather, between obviously well-trained and experienced NFL Officials and a commissioner who apparently cares more about profits (at the expense of these officials’ wages and benefits) than he does about the integrity of the game he’s supposed to be running. One comment I read put it this way (not sure if it was stolen. ha): “Goodell needs to pay those refs. It’s a million dollar problem in a Billion dollar industry.” In other words, the guys at the top have enough money already. Why won’t they just give these guys a raise? I commented at one point that last night’s game-ending disaster of a call (with two refs, side by side, making different signals and then finally deciding to go with the least reasonable one, and THEN forgetting to keep all the players on the field to finish the game) will probably end up on one of those HBO Sports documentaries as the pivotal moment in the NFL referee lockout. It truly was a potent event.

Interestingly enough, the team that got the short end of the stick last night was the Packers, who hail from Green Bay Wisconsin. I wonder how Scott Walker and Paul Ryan feel about that?

Support The TPM Journalism Fund
  • Contributions allow us to hire more journalists
  • Contributions allow us to provide free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • Contributions support independent, non-corporate journalism
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: