Bob Lobel: Why Can’t We Get the Real Refs Back?

Thursday, September 27, 2012


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Bob Lobel, GoLocalProv Sports Contributor

Go ahead, think of something else to write or talk about in sports right now.

You could talk about the amazing American League pennant race. How about the last days of Bobby Valentine? Then there is the National Hockey League’s stupid owner tricks. Really? Well, the NFL at one time did employ scab players during a previous acrimonious labor dispute and Doug Flutie was one that played for the fake Patriots. It’s likely you will not be able to name any of these scab NFL officials even while they are still masquerading as the real deal in stripes, let alone when they fade away back to their division 3 or roller derby rinks they came from.

Admittedly, that’s not fair to either division 3 or roller derby. These guys that have stepped out of the shadow world of living a dream at a manageable level to the harsh spotlight of NFL televised scrutiny must feel like volunteers aboard a spaceship that can’t land fast enough. Enough really has to be enough!

It has been enough for the casual fans, enough for the fantasy fans, enough for the gamblers, enough for the players, enough for the trained officials, and hopefully enough for the owners. For it is they, the men with the money, that control who gets on the field no matter what uniform color or stripes.

Roger Goodell is a good soldier. He is not Bert Bell or Pete Rozelle. He takes the owners’ bullets. The other two did the shooting. The ego owners in the most exclusive club in the U.S.A. have the control and now need to give a little up. They need to give a little up to get the trained guys back to the top league in the game with all its rules and nuances that make it the new American pastime.

So far, this year, the new American pastime has been official baiting. Baiting by whom? Baiting by press, by fans, by players and by coaches who should know better but cant control themselves. What owner has spoken out about the replacement refs? Not Robert Kraft. So far they have been content to let Roger take the heat.

One target is so much easier to aim for than 32. The sports blog Deadspin has taken on a project of listing every mistake the scabs have made during any given weekend. Their researchers have been very willing tweeters than have been fact checked. Last weekend there were a total of 28 such events, either born out of ignorance or misjudgement under pressure.

This really begs the question of “why would these guys do this to themselves?”

Some must have families and children and other jobs. Maybe some are so lonely they don’t care. Maybe some just want to get out of the house, get on a plane and go to a game in some exciting big city, knowing that they will be seen by their family on TV.

Maybe they are just living a dream and could care less about the consequences of their actions. Maybe of course, in this economy, they could use the money. Each and every one must have their reasons for getting in the arena for whatever short time they know it will be.

Of course, the owners must have a pretty good reason for being so intractable.

Precedent? Union busting? Whatever? This is a league with the most volatile labor unrest of them all. Why is that? I would guess that it is the dominant/submissive history of the owner/player relationship. Ownership makes the rules and ownership determines who will or will not be on the field.

Players, historically, have fought for more power, and while they have been given a bigger piece of the pie, power has not come with it. Did the owners want to retain the power over officials? Hopefully, for the owners, it has become obvious it is more difficult to find competent folks to judge it than to play it.

Power just isn’t worth it anymore.


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