And that sound you heard was America’s collective sigh that the nightmare is finally over with the NFL regular referees heading back to work.
After three weeks of blown calls, no calls and reversed calls; of physical contact and verbal intimidation; and less than 48 hours after what is perhaps the most bizarre ending to a football game ever, the NFL and the NFL Referees Association reached an agreement Wednesday.
“Our officials will be back on the field starting [Thursday] night,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement, referring to the Cleveland Browns-Baltimore Ravens contest.
Meanwhile, the much derided replacement refs can return to the ball fields of Division III, junior college and the lingerie league, if they accept them back.
Well it finally looks as if the public pressure from MOnday Night’s fiasco got the NFL to cave in by finally acknowledging that the job of referee isn’t just a replaceable occupation. As the pressure continued to build over the season’s first three weeks which were capped by Sunday and Monday nights’ nationally-broadcast embarrassments – the league’s hypothesis that it could pretty much round up anyone off the street, put them in striped shirts and the game would go on fine was over.
The refs will meet in Dallas on Friday and Saturday to ratify the eight-year contract and pick up their equipment and assignments. The pension deal they fought to preserve will remain for the next five years, according to reports, then it goes to 401Ks. There is a four percent pay raise.
In the end, the NFL was battling over $3.3 million per year in pension payouts. That was a meager $103,125 per team per year for a $9 billion-plus industry, which simply meant that this lockout was a huge fail of comedic proportions beyond belief.
The details on why the NFL finally budged will emerge in the days to come, but at this point, credit the owners, commissioner Roger Goodell and the referees’ union for making this less about ideology and more about giving an insatiable customer base that’s made them all wealthy [or wealthier] what they deserve.
“I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion,” Goodell said. “Now it’s time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs.”
NFL officials will get back to work Thursday and just in time for the Baltimore Ravens – Cleveland Browns game.