Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NFL: Not For Long

I can count on one hand the number of times I've rooted for the Green Bay Packers, and still have a few fingers left over. With that said, you probably assume that I was ecstatic about the Pack losing to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.

You would be wrong.

Oh sure, I was rooting against Green Bay on Monday. But some things transcend team loyalty, specifically recurring incidents which could harm the integrity of the sport as a whole. Utterly incompetent officiating, no matter which team is victimized, would certainly qualify.

Replacement ref rage may have peaked Monday night.

Just when it seemed that NFL coaches, players and fans couldn't get any angrier, along came a fiasco that trumped any of the complaints from the weekend. The Seahawks' 14-12 victory featured one of the most bizarre finishes in recent memory, and was certain to reignite frustrations over the locked-out officials.

(Seattle QB Russell) Wilson scrambled from the pocket and threw to the corner of the end zone as the clock expired. (WR Golden) Tate shoved Green Bay's Sam Shields out of the way, then wrestled with M.D. Jennings for possession. It was ruled on the field as a touchdown and after a lengthy review, referee Wayne Elliott came out from under the hood and announced "the ruling on the field stands" and CenturyLink Field erupted in celebration.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been the target of most of the anger vented by players and fans. And while Goodell's hands aren't pristine, one needs to remember that the NFL owners have to approve any agreement reached with NFL officials. So do you honestly believe after Monday's debacle that the owners have a bigger sense of urgency to get a deal done? Let me answer that question with a couple of questions. Are NFL stadiums, for the most part, still being sold out each week? Are the TV contracts still paying a princely sum? The answers to both are a resounding "yes." Until either of those factors dramatically change, the owners will likely proceed with their normal flippancy.

For as long as I can remember, the NFL has been like the proverbial 800-lb. gorilla. But given the public relations hits the league has endured over myriad lawsuits filed by former players as well as the New Orleans Saints "bounty" scandal, it would behoove the powers-that-be to not add to the P.R. malaise by potentially putting on-field results in a position to be dramatically skewed. 

In the end I would like to believe I'm being too cynical about the multi-billionaire NFL owners and that they actually have enough pride in their league so as not to see it permanently tainted. Either way, it makes we Minnesotans all that more fired up to pay for a new billion dollar Vikings stadium, eh?


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