You've almost certainly heard about that Monday Night Football thing. Not on television or on the internet or in a newspaper, although all of those are possible. "Heard" as in "heard, with actual ears, the collective thrumming 'oof' and periodic bellowed hoots of indignation from sea to shining, rageful sea." That ambient and totally justified displeasure speaks for itself; the image at right, courtesy of our dude @Straightbangin speaks even more clearly. But let's talk about it, briefly, anyway.
In a way, the Monday Night game that the scab refs unjustly handed to the Seattle Seahawks almost reflects well upon those refs: it took three weeks for them to undeniably and incontrovertibly transfer a victory from one team to another through sheer overmatched biffery. Given how appallingly and plainly overmatched the refs have been from the jump—"These assholes," Drew Magary explains with his usual patience at Slate, "don't know the rules"—that is longer than we probably had any right to expect. But games were being bent well out of shape in a bunch of different ways, as Grantland's Charlie Pierce noted, well before the force of scabular incompetence fully uprooted and flipped an outcome on Monday. It has been bad. We've been over this, and so has everyone else.
But, in the wake of the inevitable objectively-fucked-up game result, everyone is going over it again, a little bit louder now. In writing the Daily Fix this morning, I waded some way into this new tide of fresh bile. In writing my column for Vice, I made my contribution to it. There is only so much more to say about this, and only so much more anyone could possibly want to read. Still, there's one thing that bears repeating.
Because for all the fuming and fussing about what happened on Monday, and Sunday, and on the Sundays before, there still seems to be a certain willful missing of the central insult around which all these smaller weekly insults are in orbit. There are the real-time obituaries for The Sanctity Of A Great American Game and the be-spittled demands for action by Roger Goodell or the officials union or both, and those are all understandable if maybe somewhat overstated. There are silly but tellingly of-the-moment semantic debates and meta-assignments of blame or causality and facepalm-y "insider" considerations of what this will do to/for Roger Goodell's "legacy," which are less understandable and more dumb, but recognizably representative of the weird distance and celebrity-addled fatuity and petulant self-prioritization to be found in various corners of the sports discourse.
But there is, finally, only one thing to find at the bottom of all this, and it's worth repeating. This whole florid thing springs from a cold—and, it seems so far, astute—calculation on the part of the NFL's Rand-oid ownership class. That calculation, which is not precisely new but has a new manifestation over these last three weeks, is that people will watch NFL games no matter what, no matter how slow or poor or wrong or off or dangerous things are allowed to become on the field. Take away the recent developments—the touchdown catch that shouldn't have been; the players hesitantly moving towards solidarity with the refs; professional line-toe'rs like Jim Nantz struggling to find polite ways to describe the moraine of bullshit his bosses' righteous avarice has deposited over the last three weeks—and this all boils down to a very well-considered middle finger from the owners to everyone else involved in the broader NFL transaction.
Owners asked NFL refs to quit their day jobs, then offered them a 16% pay cut; the sticking point now is a pension obligation that amounts to something on the order of $300,000 per team, per season. This should not be insurmountable, but it is: the officials are not budging, and the feudal vanity cases in the ownership suites are standing on noxious principle, righteously living out union-busting fap-fantasies (for a second straight year!) because they believe they can and will survive all this both intact and some small amount richer.
All of us, fans and owners and bloggers and players and people who are merely sick of seeing their Twitter feeds choked with all these different flavors of righetousness, want the games to go on with the real officials. The only people with the power to do anything about that are in the owners' boxes, the ones Jim Nantz tells his little stories about. That they haven't and won't pay up to make their hugely profitable product palatable says a good deal about them. It says a lot more about how they think of us, and of the game that enriches them. I won't pretend to know what you or I can do about this problem; it's tangled, and the NFL's decision-makers have made clear that the one-sided argument that's so compromised the season so far has little to do with us, or what we might want. But we might as well understand the problem as what it is.