Yet Another Missed Call on the Replacement Refs


According to David Sheinin in the Washington Post, even President Obama has expressed strong views about the NFL’s lockout of its referees. “Terrible, I’ve been saying for months we’ve gotta get our refs back” said he.

For the 17 people in America who, like me, don’t watch NFL football, the league has locked out its officials and used replacements whose performance has been subpar. A crescendo was reached on Monday when a spectacular last second missed call reversed the outcome of the Seattle-Green Bay game.

The league and its officials have been fighting about retirement, specifically the proposed shift from the existing defined-benefit plan to a proposed defined contribution plan, familiar to most of us as a 401(k).

The NFL officials side with Greeks, public-sector employees, French agricultural workers and former U.S. Senators in preferring to receive monthly checks till death do us part. The league, on the other hand, sides with such popular groups as accountants, actuaries, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, in preferring not to bankrupt the institutions they serve.

See, there is this little problem that has escaped attention during the recent Tweet rage. Retirement doesn’t work. Thanks to the good people in the medical and pharmaceutical professions, we live too long.

Public opinion sides with the referees but probably not because their defined benefit plan payments appear to be rounding errors to the league’s bottom line. Instead, it seems that the enjoyment of Sunday afternoon potato chips has been reduced by the prospect of “unfair” outcomes in these all-important contests.

Governor Walker, who famously stood up to his state employees on the same issue, flip-flopped to the refs on this one because, in Wisconsin, it is politically infelicitous to say anything bad about the Green Bay Packers. For you 17 non-NFL-watchers, Green Bay lost 14-12 when a last second interception was called a touchdown.

Might have been good politics, Scott, but you get a flag for absence of leadership.

Now to you, Mr. President, perhaps the only thing that voters can try to know, as we decide whether to renew your contract or give you the boot, is whether you or former Governor Romney will lead or pander. The view expressed in your quote suggests the answer. Even the replacement refs know enough to flag you for your absence of leadership on this one.

Note to Romney speechwriters: give it a try, tell America that this is an example of the certain failure of our retirement system. It appears that you have very little to lose.

Don’t despair potato chip fans, the tide of public opinion is running your way. A flag to the voters for that.