“Scabs” to Officiate Opening Day as NFLRA Negotiations Break Off


I can remember the strikebreaking “scabs” who played a few games in the NFL that actually counted towards the standings in a 1987 season that was the punchline of the likes of Johnny Carson for months at the time. The “San Francisco Phony Niners” would play the “New Orleans Saint Elsewheres” while the “New York Gliders” fought a slow, easy divisional contest against the “New England Turncoats” or whatever the joke of the day was.

God, I’m old.

Talks between the NFL and the NFLRA broke off Saturday without anything encouraging coming from the talks.

I have seen the video clip of Roger Goodell’s doublespeak and generalities when “answering” questions about player safety and the replacement officials. He was clearly uncomfortable talking with Albert Breer of NFL.com. The clip is in the story here.

The upshot of all this is that the NFLRA and the NFL are arguing over making the officials full-time. The NFLRA says yes; the NFL says no.

And Roger Goodell is truly worried about player safety. And I still believe in Santa Claus.

The economic difference to the NFL is negligible, and it’s silly to think that somehow keeping officials part-time instead of making them full-time is good for player safety.

Goodell’s a bureaucrat trying to put a smiley face on an NFL shield made of the bones of people like Mike Webster and Junior Seau. It’s absurd on its’ face.

Peter King wrote in his Sports Illustrated column “Monday Morning QB” the following:

“All officials, all the time. Another story showcasing these fine, upstanding men in the striped pajamas, aka the replacement officials: I cannot say which game this story happened in, but I can tell you it did happen. Final preseason game for two teams. Official calls defensive pass-interference in front of the penalized team’s bench. Head coach lambastes the official. Official picks up the flag, tells the coach he’s not going to make the call. Coach is stunned. Imagine what will happen when something’s actually at stake.”

If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell knows what’s good for the NFL, the players, and himself personally, an agreement will be reached either tonight or tomorrow and there will be regular NFL officials in New York calling the Cowboys at Giants game. The rest of the games don’t start until Sunday, but Wednesday is the true deadline. If he’s so concerned about “player safety,” there shouldn’t be a single contest that isn’t overseen by a trained, experienced crew.

It all boils down to pensions and part-time/full-time status for employees. I’m not an expert on the details of the sticking points, nor do I wish to be. But do we want trained vs. not-so-trained people that watch a very violent game take place all around them and attempt to keep it within the defined rules?

Players are going to push the envelope because it’s in their job description and replacement officials are to them as substitute teachers are to 6th graders. It rarely ends well. With such especially timely news of more and more problems with TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injury), officials are the front line of defense in making sure players’ actions and behavior don’t get out of hand. The equipment helps protect the body and the trained official knows more about the psychology of handling professional athletes than replacements can.

For every flag thrown, half the people involved are going to be yelling at you. An NFL gridiron is no place for on-the-job training. And picking up flags because of it certainly isn’t going to earn you any respect. The competitive men involved in the contests already smell blood in the water and will try to push even harder to gain that edge, and that’s exactly why we need the regular NFL officials in New York City Wednesday night.

They aren’t so easily intimidated.