Love it or hate it–the NFL’s replacement referees are here to stay. For a little while longer, at least. For the last few months, the owners and Referee’s Association have been squabbling over $3.3 million in referee pension benefits. For some, it may seem silly for a league that generated revenues in excess of $10 billion last season. However, the owners are smart, savvy business men and won’t make a deal unless it’s right for them. It’s worth noting that the ‘regular’ NFL referees are part-time employees and have weekday jobs outside of football. The very best referees make in excess of $100,000 for working 16 or so games per year! That’s not a bad gig at all.
As a fan, the technicalities of the stalemate don’t interest me. However, most people fail to realize that the owners simply don’t care about the fans. They didn’t care during the lockout last season and they don’t care about the shortcomings of the officials this year. To them, it’s all about business and there’s nothing wrong with that. More importantly, the owners realize there is an inelastic demand for football and as consumers, we simply cannot get enough of it. The NFL is a catalyst for social gatherings, fantasy football leagues, gambling, and advertising. Football has become a major component of Americana–and we eat it up.
As much as some want to ‘petition’ or ‘boycott’ the NFL, their advantaces will fall on deaf ears. For most, watching football is an effortless hobby that temporarily removes the stresses of everyday life. No one wants to ‘work’ at his/her hobby. It should be an enjoyable experience.
While a few groups of fans may not have an impact, losing advertisers, TV subscriptions, or the interest of Las Vegas may force the owners to make a deal. Alike any business, money talks and the owners are always all ears. During last year’s lockout, the owners wised up and agreed to new a Collective Bargaining Agreement after a few of their main sponsors started to sour. It was reported that over $350 million dollars shifted hands after Monday night’s blown call. Some reports are even suggesting that some of Vegas’s biggest fish are refusing to bet until the ‘regular’ referees return. As much as the NFL pretends to frown on gambling, it generates a lot of capital on a secondary markets and is a key part of Americana.
For most fans, it’s time to face the facts–the Replacement Refs are here to stay–until something drastic happens. If Budwesier threatens to pull out of their deal with the NFL, expect to see Ed Hoculi’s 20-inch pythons in a city near you. However, that’s a drastic measure that’s unlikely to occur. Unless one side decides to budge, you may see your high school gym teacher refereeing an NFL game this weekend..