4th and Gold: Roger Goodell is Breaking Bad

Working from 8:30-11:30 last night, I missed the Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. I got home a few seconds after the last play of the game and turned on ESPN. I saw replay after replay of the final play, and I was disgusted by what I saw. As it turned out, it didn’t matter that I had missed the first 59 minutes and 52 seconds of the game. The game itself was irrelevant. It was all about the call.

Photo courtesy of static1.businessinsider.com

For those of you who haven’t yet seen the play, here it is. Basically, the Seahawks chucked up a Hail Mary pass attempt needing a touchdown to win the game. Seattle’s wide receiver, Golden Tate, pushes a Packers’ defender in the back before jumping up for the ball. Unfortunately for Tate, another Packers’ defender out-jumped him and caught the ball, leaving Tate with only one hand on the ball. Fortunately for Tate, however, Commissioner Roger Goodell has deployed incompetent referees in an attempt to avoid paying the ones who know how to officiate a game. Two referees came over, saw that Tate had wrestled for partial control for the ball once on the ground, made eye contact with each other, and one ruled for a touchback (an interception) while the other ruled touchdown. Long story short, no flag was thrown for offensive pass interference, Tate was ruled to have gained possession simultaneously with the Packers’ defensive back, and the Seahawks won the game.

I don’t know anything about what the referees want and what the NFL wants as far as whats holding up the deal between the league and the refs. For as much as the media likes to talk about how bad the replacement referees are, they do not talk too much about the specifics of why we are in this situation in the first place. Admittedly, this is an ignorant, shallow and naive position to be coming from. Frankly, I don’t care.

It was only a matter of time that the replacement referees, referees who could not even manage a Lingerie Football League game, directly and blatantly obviously cost a team a game.

Of course, even the best referees in any sport are going to botch a call here and there. But clearly this is not an example of having an abundance of good referees where dropping down from Group 1 to Group 1A is pretty much negligible. Instead, you’re moving from elite to pathetic.

I view this situation with the NFL and their referees in a way very similar to the making of a horrible sequel or trilogy. Yeah, you can make a second or third movie that will make some money because you have such a strong fan base from the original. Think Rocky V, The Godfather Part III, or Speed 2. True, these movies might do decently well in the box office, but moving from Dumb and Dumber to Dumb and Dumberer is simply a disgrace and an insult to anyone who is a fan of the original product.

You’re diluting your product. You’re taking what was the best product on the market and changing the formula. You’re still selling it like its the same product, yet your customers know that what they’re experiencing is just not the same as what it used to be. Sure, they might keep buying your product if its the only thing out there, but you’re going to anger, insult, and cheat a lot of people.

Goodell is proving to be the ultimate hypocrite. His decision to take a firm stance on negotiations with the referees leaves incompetent referees out on the field. Incompetent referees lead to players’ taking advantage of that fact, including more cheap shots, more holding or illegal contact, and simply more frustration and aggravation for those playing the game. The replacement referees indirectly cause more scuffles and arguments between teams, and that, along with the fact that they don’t seem to know a helmet-to-helmet hit when they see it (Darius Heyward-Bey) among other things, could potentially lead to more harm for the players. For a commissioner who prides himself on player safety, it’s awfully hypocritical of him to put the players at risk by having incompetent officials controlling a violent sport.

Roger Goodell, your product is worth billions of dollars. The fans will continue to watch, the players will continue to play, and the money will continue to pour in. But what you may be saving in financial costs by not paying your referees, you are more than making up for in losses of intangible aspects of the league, such as respect, overall satisfaction with knowing that what you’re producing is as good as it can be, or even injuries to the players.

Just like in Breaking Bad when Skyler asks Walter “How much [money] is enough?” Roger Goodell must ask himself the same thing. When you’re talking billions of dollars, is it really worth saving a couple million to put the very thing you’re working for in harm’s way? Stop with the hypocrisy, stop with the greed, pay the referees who are able to run the league, and let’s get on with this NFL season the way it ought to be played.