Mike from Attleboro -- the leading contributor to Michael Felger's old mailbag and one of Felger's favorite callers to his radio show -- is now contributing occasional pieces to CSNNE.com.
Its not often that a New England Patriots fan is in full agreement with the living embodiment of Patriot anti-matter, Bernard Pollard. But after two weeks of terrible scab officiating, you couldnt help but agree with him. Pollard, on 98.5s Toucher and Rich show, stated (at great risk to his checkbook) that These guys need to be out and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell needs to do more to fix the problem:
My issue is we have a commissioner that is jumping on board to hammer every other issue down in the NFL. He is jumping on board to get meetings with players when things are happening, but we have something on hand that is messing up the integrity of the league and nothing is being done about it.
Pollard is 100 percent correct and should be commended for saying so. The fact that the league is still locking out the officials at this point is an absolute joke. Allowing the best sports product in North America, and arguably the world, to suffer for the price of some benefits and pension plans is so myopic and foolish it defies logic.
When you realize that Roger Goodell is at the helm of the most moronic replacement plan since Coy and Vance took over for Bo and Luke Duke, it all starts to make a little more sense.
If there is one thing that the reign of the NFLs most despotic commissioner has shown us, its that there isnt a person, place or thing that Opie Goodell wont try to crush under foot if given the opportunity. In the past, the NFLs commissioners duty has been to Protect the Shield. Roger Goodell, on the other hand, isnt down with protecting it as much as he is with using it like Captain America to beat his foes into submission.
Protecting the shield is exactly what this situation requires. The game itself needs to be protected from a group of owners who think the officials are just another bunch of employees they can exploit and short change in negotiations. These arent run-of-the-mill, part-time employees. These are battle-tested arbiters of a fast-moving, violent, multibillion dollar product. They deserve to be compensated as such. If the uniform Narc who ratted out 49ers QB Alex Smith for wearing a San Francisco Giants hat at a press conference is important enough to get full benefits, giving them to the refs is a no-brainer, part-time or not.
Even more so, the on-field product needs to be protected from the type of doubt and skepticism that shadow the NBAs every move. The biggest officiating controversy the NFL has had in the last decade was due to Walt Coleman correctly enforcing the tuck rule in a Patriots-Raiders game during the divisional round of the 2001 NFL playoffs. David Stern would move the Lakers back to Minneapolis in exchange for that kind of officiating competence.
Instead of giving up a fraction of a fraction of a 9 billion pie, Roger Goodell has led the owners down a path that may lead to irreparable damage. In the leadup to the season, Goodell said the replacements would do a very credible job and short-term sacrifices were needed to ensure long-term success. This statement on its own is delusional enough to have Goodell removed and committed. But when you consider that Goodell has had the leagues officials under his purview since 2001 and already witnessed one officiating lockout, it now becomes a case of deliberate and premeditated negligence.
During the 2001 referee lockout, the league was able to get a much better caliber of replacement official. During that lockout, the entire preseason and one regular-season week passed largely without incident. The events of September 11th helped to accelerate an agreement and this dispute became a minor footnote of commissioner Paul Tagliabues tenure.
This lockout, on the other hand, left the league skimming the bottom of the football officiating barrel. Instead of continuing with the lockout, Goodell should have seen the futility of trying to replace veteran NFL officials with Lingerie League rejects in the preseason and advised the owners to settle. Instead of being forced to send press releases reminding players and coaches to make nice with the scabs, Goodell should have seen that star-struck replacements would get intimidated and bullied into bad calls and reversals. Instead of letting these replacements take the field with little or no league vetting, Goodell should have pulled some of his gestapo off the Bountygate witchhunt and had them make sure that they arent in fantasy leagues. Or that a Saints fan isnt officiating a Saints game!!!
Given the way NFL football and gambling are indivisibly linked, Roger Goodell should be thanking John Facenda that his replacements have been outed only as star-struck fantasy players and not gridiron versions of Tim Donaghy. Spared such a disaster, he should have been hauling the owners back to the bargaining table yesterday.
But Goodell is too stubborn to swallow his pride and do whats right. Hes so obsessed with being the worlds toughest paper pusher that he refuses to see the crippling threat to his leagues credibility hovering right under his double chin. Opie thought the fallout from Spygate was a bad scene? The meltdown that would result from a Donaghy-level incident in the NFL would dwarf what a thousand Barnard Pollards could do to the Patriots.
Hopefully, the myriad of catastrophes that could fall upon the league finally become evident to Roger Goodell. Then he can stop using the Shield like his personal cudgel and actually protect it for once.