Thursday, September 20, 2012

Memo to the NFL & NHL: Stop the lockouts!

They just don't get it, and probably never will.

The NFL locked out its referees over the summer in a dispute over---what else?----money, among other things. Granted, the guys in the zebra stripes aren't exactly the sharpest tools in the drawer, but considering what has happened over the first two weeks of the regular season, and what is likely to continue for at least another two, it's a case of preferring the devil you know rather than the one you don't.

Several Week 1 games stretched to 3 1/2 hours, as if these were college games, which now routinely go 3 1/2 hours at a minimum. If it finishes in less than that, it's progress. As I noted the other day, Sunday's Eagles-Ravens game lasted more than 4 hours, and it shouldn't have had to. The problem that exists is that the replacement refs that were hired were not given sufficient time to prepare for game day action. Not enough training. You can't teach these folks in just a few weeks. As has been noted elsewhere, there have been the missteps. One official was removed from the Carolina-New Orleans game because he's a Saints fan. Another ref told Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy he needed the star running back for his fantasy team. Welcome to scabs of the 21st century. They're mostly fanboys. And they're killing the game.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has been good for going all Judge Roy Bean on various players for off the field offenses, but he has his head in the sand if he thinks the television ratings will compensate for the turtle like pace of some games. ESPN's Steve Young and New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica added their voices to the chorus over the last couple of days, and it was Young who ripped into Goodell and the owners for using the television ratings to mask the obvious problems. What is it going to take to get the "real" officials on the field? A season---or career----ending injury to a marquee player, like, for example, Tom Brady?

Let's be realistic. The NFL locked out the players a year ago, only to reach a deal in time for the pre-season. Why couldn't they reach a similar compromise with the referees? Because, in the eyes of the suits, the referees, the guys who have full-time jobs outside of the league, mind you, aren't as important to the bottom line. Oh? Reality check time, boys! The voices of dissent are getting louder by the day!

Meanwhile, the NHL has locked out its players for the second time in less than 10 years. They cancelled an entire season a few years ago because of labor issues, and while the Players Association thought Donald & Steve Fehr, better known for their work in baseball labor issues, would help prevent something like that from happening again, they had to be dreaming. The NHL owners want to restructure the way revenues are split (currently, the players get the larger share) such that it favors them instead of the players. Please! Just settle on a 50/50 split, shake on it, and get the season started, jabronies. If the teachers' union in Chicago can actually "suspend" a work stoppage for however long it takes before a labor agreement can be finalized, why can't these pro sports leagues follow suit? Instead of torturing the fans, the people who make those salaries possible, oh by the way, just address the issues a lot sooner, like, before the last contract runs out, and do so behind the scenes.

Let's face it. If folks ain't angry that these disputes aren't being settled in a timely manner, they're probably falling asleep from boredom because it's dragging like a cross-dressing wino on a 2-week bender. And that's ugly, brother.

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