By Steve Silverman
(CBS) This time, the NFL’s bluster didn’t matter.
The performance of the replacement referees trotted out on the field each week was a joke.
It was bad from the first week of preseason and had only gotten worse.
But as bad as the officiating was on Monday night when M.D. Jennings of the Packers intercepted Russell Wilson’s last second pass and a game-winning touchdown was awarded to Seattle’s Golden Tate because he placed his hands on the ball, the NFL’s reaction was even worse.
The next day, the league attempted to defend the call, saying there was “no indisputable visual evidence” that Tate did not have simultaneous possession of the ball.
That one explanation tells you everything you need to know about the NFL.
They don’t care about anything else but themselves. Fair play? It doesn’t matter. Honesty? We knew that didn’t matter a long time ago. Competitive balance? That’s nice, but it’s not all that important.
However, when the Lords of Park Avenue started to realize that advertisers, coaches, players and fans saw the product as damaged and lacking integrity, they had to do something before franchise value was impacted.
Locking out the referees was simply a matter of a bunch of rich guys wanting to hold on to more of their money. When they realized that it was going to cost them even more money not to pay the officials and fund their pension, they relented.
It was just a matter of dollars. The NFL didn’t suddenly see the light about doing the right thing and getting the fans the game they deserve. It’s only about the money.
The NFL is the undisputed king on the mountain of American sports. They took that title in the late 1960s when a commissioner named Pete Rozelle brought the American Football League into the fold and started the Super Bowl.
Since the late 1960s, the NFL’s strength, popularity and power has grown continuously.
But the emperor was exposed this week. The NFL is about power and money and little else.
They don’t care about players, coaches, referees and they certainly don’t care about you, the fans.
Do yourself a favor and let Roger Goodell’s words about getting the referees back on the field go in one ear and out the other.
“We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it’s time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs.”
Which way to the vomitorium?
The NFL is fighting a credibility war that they are going to have a difficult time winning.
At the same time, the NFL has that little issue of their game injuring the brains of those who participate.
As the evidence mounts, so do the lawsuits from former players. The players contend that the NFL knew what players were doing to themselves when they allowed players to compete despite having warning signs like headaches, dizziness and confusion.
The NFL will have to face these charges in a court of law.
They will defend their actions and try to come across as innocent.
Nobody will believe them, nor should they.
The NFL is set up for a huge fall.
It may not happen this year or next, but it is coming.
The combination of monstrous greed and hubris is not a winning one.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.