Unions, Leverage, and the NFL

By Eric Zanzucchi (@ericzanzucchi)

The Seattle Seahawks just defeated the Green Bay Packers 14-12 on Monday Night Football. The ending was controversial and confusing because it looked like a defender intercepted a pass as time expired, while an offensive player clawed at the ball in his hands. It was ruled a touchdown and Seattle won the game. (The end of the game can be seen here.)

My opinion, as is the popular one, is that Green Bay should have won the game. However, I don’t actually care. I view football as pure escapism. Viewing it as escapism, this was the most entertaining outcome possible. It Golden Tate had caught that ball cleanly for a touchdown or a Green Bay Packer defender caught the ball cleanly for an interception it would have been much less entertaining.

Now we are blessed with the greatest gift of all, conversation fodder. Had the result of the game been clean cut it would now be forgotten. Controversy creates conversation. Does the result of this game actually matter? Since there is a referees strike, it actually might.

The overriding question is what will happen to the union referees versus the replacement referees. A lot of people think that this means the end to the strike. Those same people think that this shaming will force the league to negotiate with the refs with the refs having a ton of leverage. I’m not so sure they have that leverage. What is more empowering for the league than the replacement refs screwing up on national television and the ratings not being affected? It is a business and the bottom line is ratings, right? Let’s say the NFL chooses not to negotiate with the refs for a week straight while this controversy fades, does that not give the league a lot of leverage?

Ideally, these calls would be made right. But, if wages are being disputed and that means my NFL games have to be decided by chemistry teachers from Boise or accountants from Jacksonville, I’m still watching.