An Open Letter to NFL Brass After Monday’s Fiasco, Re: Shame On You

Dear NFL Owners and Roger Goodell,

In the absence of a labor agreement between the Referee’s Union (NFLRA) and NFL owners (knuckleheads), your sport has decided to employ a class of underwhelming and incompetent replacement referees to officiate our nation’s most important competition. As such, the very fabric of our future hangs perilously in the balance. No, we don’t really care what happens on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. We care what happens on the first Sunday of February.

The labor dispute has reached an uncomfortable stalemate. The NFLRA wants $100 million per official per year, plus a 401(k) defined contribution plan, plus an oligarch’s den of severed children’s fingers, plus three or four Shake Weights™ so that Ed Hochuli isn’t caught in the player’s facilities anymore, mumbling Judas Priest lyrics while he works his ‘ceps into baubles of pure punishment.

Flag. I flag myself for interference. That was out of line. In truth, the NFLRA is asking for $27,250 per official per year more than they are currently receiving. The union would like this raise to last for the duration of a seven year contract. We, the fans, understand that this is not an insignificant sum.

Because I’m sure you’ve already done the calculations yourself, I won’t bother you with the math. But I worked out how much money the ref’s union is asking over seven years, relative to NFL revenue earned in just one year, 2011. Are you ready? 0.08% of the pie. This is the part where I call you all Scrooge McDuck, and where you bust out some purely theoretical complaint about how, if you give in to referee demands, pretty soon they’ll be making more than the players and owners combined.

It’s true: the average NFL official already makes a whopping $149,000 annually, doing part-time work. Not bad if you can get it. The other truth? Y’all make $6 billion. At least.

What has become painfully clear during the sputtering, sclerotic start of the regular season, however, is that the referees have a really tough job. Lots of credit should go to the overworked and overmatched replacement refs for trying to fill those shoes. But let’s face the facts. If the real refs are Canadian Mountain Police—respected but, well, Canadian—the replacements are U.N. peacekeepers—treated like doormats, feeble as flies.

Sirs, you have demonstrated your priorities, and the American public has seen them for what they are: a fundamental and systematic disregard for the integrity of the game. Instead of exciting football controversies like wide receivers shooting themselves in the thigh, or porn stars associating with tight ends, we’re discussing the unbelievably bland, incompletely meaningful question of referees. It doesn’t get worse than that. It’s like a government thriller about tax enforcement. Blech.

Since you have treated the fans, the lifeblood of your profession, like lemmings, and your product, the beauteous, violent game of football, like a commodity, I am prepared to adopt other, livelier hobbies until my sport is restored to its former glory.

Enclosed is an enumeration of all the activities I anticipate picking up in the absence of football. They are going to be super fun and fulfilling, and I’ll begin impressing women with my savoir-faire instead of frightening them off with my brutish devotion to a game. I hope you are happy.

  • I will take up tanning and leather making, so I can write poems on vellum and fashion wooly chaps and lederhosen. My manliness will no longer be in question without football as an outlet.
  • I will buy a subscription to The New Yorker and painstakingly work through each issue, so that my mind is tickled and my entitlement stoked. I will learn to reference trendy NY eateries, laugh at droll humor, and place unnecessary umlauts over vowels in “cöoperation” and “rëexamination.” I will write like Jonah Lehrer.
  • I will pick up a sophisticated sport, like cricket, which is really just as boring as baseball but which has cachet. I will confuse people with imaginary cricket terms and make them feel inadequate. “Oh, yeah, the widgets need to fall before the fielding team gets to bat.”
  • I will take my aging father out to dinner regularly instead of pretending he is practically dead. He will suggest steak dinner, and then stare at the waitresses uncomfortably long before attacking his prime rib lecherously. I will know what it is like to feel chaste.

Poor NFL. Poor Goodell. You have not learned the lessons of the past. Don’t you remember what happened to baseball during the strike of ’94-’95? A public backlash, 20% drop in attendance, and a search for America’s true pastime. Guess where they found it? Football. If you keep up these shenanigans, fans will forsake football like the Germans forsook communism after the fall of the wall.

Well, maybe that’s a stretch. Hockey, anyone?

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