The NFL’s annual Hall of Fame game could launch a period of potential infamy in pro football.
Eleven years after a lockout of the game officials resulted in replacements for one regular-season game, another lockout could expose the game to something less than the best of the best referees and umpires and line judges and head linesmen and back judges and field judges.
Barring a highly unlikely settlement, it all gets started on Sunday night, when the Cardinals face the Saints.
While Commissioner Roger Goodell downplayed the situation during a Friday appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, former NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira has been sounding the alarm. On Wednesday’s Dan Patrick Show, Pereira reiterated his view that the situation could threaten the integrity of the game.
Pereira, who as Goodell pointed out actually took the striped shirt out of mothballs and got back on the field during the 2001 lockout, explained that the decision of Division I conferences to prevent their guys from moonlighting this time around means that the pool of replacements includes high-school officials, a pair of guys who were fired by the Pac-1o for poor performance, and officials from the Lingerie Football League.
As explained by Pereira, the financial gap between the non-lingerie version of pro football and the regular officials works out to $100,000 per team. At a time when the Browns are being sold for $1 billion and the Packers have posted a record profit of more than $40 million, it’s hard not to think that the NFL should give. Maybe not the full $100,000 per team, but enough to get this thing done.
Meanwhile, fans continue to not seem to care. Many believe that the locked-out officials should be thrown out. Others possibly aren’t bent out of shape because, if there are bad calls, there’s a chance that the bad calls will favor their favorite teams.
For the fans whose favorite teams are victimized by the bad calls of the third-tier-and-worse officials, the situation could quickly become a problem, starting a month from Sunday when the Cowboys and Giants get together at MetLife Stadium.
Regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong and who blinks and who bends, here’s hoping this gets resolved before the games that count kick off.