By Jose M. Romero
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell penned a letter to football fans Friday morning, shedding some light on the labor negotiating process with the real officials and thanking a lot of people for hanging in there while the league and officials sorted out the mess.
One of the key phrases in the letter was this: “And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better.”
The biggest distraction was Monday night’s touchdown call in Seattle. It spurred the league to get a deal done with the officials.
I sort of feel like, if Mr. Goodell were telling me this in person, I would just say to him “OK cool, glad you and the refs were able to work things out. Thanks and bye for now!”
Not to be dismissive, but I didn’t need a letter. I get it, though. He’s trying to show that the fans matter and that he’s sorry it took so long to get the real officials back to work and that we had to deal with some ineptness on the part of the replacement officials.
I’m glad the officials are back, and yes, they are important. Everybody needs a job and deserves to work and get paid. Now, men in stripes, please go back to being as invisible as possible – which means you’re doing a great job – and let me focus on the plays in the game.
Don’t worry, Commissioner Goodell, you didn’t have to deal with a player lockout like last year. An officials lockout is far less of a headache. The fans are getting plenty of what they want, believe it. The stars of the game were always on the field, even if the best officials weren’t. And that’s what the fans cared about the most.
Good for the officials. They got their moment on Thursday night in Baltimore, and the rest of the crews will have their time to wave to the crowd and bask in a standing ovation this weekend and Monday.
But even if the fans don’t stand and applaud for the return of the officials, it’s OK. The officials need to know their role, and I’m sure they do. Fans don’t really care much about them unless they really mess up.
Same goes for MLB umpires, NBA officials, NHL officials (those guys are nowhere to be found on the ice, unless they’re ushering players to the penalty box or reviewing a goal) and soccer referees.
People want to watch the games, the competition, the drama. Not the stripes. No disrespect, it just is what it is. That said, I hope the officials are happy now that they’re back to work and they feel like they got what they wanted. No officials, no football. We may want to ignore them, but we need them.
As for the commissioner, if really wanted to apologize to the fans, he should refund season tickets holders for a game. Or slash single-game ticket prices for a week. How about free merchandise? Or the NFL Red Zone channel free for a month?
I’m sure the fans would appreciate that a lot more than a letter, even if it had good intentions.