SBD/October 1, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Refs Sign Contract Saturday, Return To Relatively Quiet Workday Sunday

NFL Referees Assoc. on Saturday approved a new eight-year contract by a 112-5 vote
The NFL’s regular officials yesterday “returned to work for a full schedule of games” a day after the NFL Referees Association voted “to accept a contract” with the league, according to USA TODAY. While officials “tipped their caps to fans who cheered their return, it wasn’t a boo-free Sunday.” Packers fans “jeered after officials didn’t throw a penalty flag for offensive interference" on a Saitns touchdown pass. Fox’ Mike Pereira, the former NFL VP/Officiating, tweeted officials missed what was “clearly a fumble” by the Saints in the second half. The Packers “couldn’t challenge” because they had no timeouts. After the Packers won 28-27, Pereira tweeted, “Tough game for the officiating crew. Nine months of rust showed here” (USA TODAY, 10/1). In N.Y., Judy Battista writes of the regular officials, “The relief at their arrival was palpable.” When the criticism of the refs resumed yesterday, it “brought to a close an ignominious month for the NFL, in which the quality of competition was subjugated for the sake of a negotiating tactic.” The attention, “mercifully, returned to things like bad quarterbacks and great defenses,” and the “more rudimentary scrutiny that accompanies all officiating” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/1).

NOT SO FAST: In Wisconsin, Mike Woods writes after “some initial cheers from the fans, it didn’t take long for the regular refs to fall out of favor” during the Saints-Packers game yesterday. Woods: “Missed calls, blown calls, replays that didn’t overturn apparent wrong calls on the field left everyone feeling like nothing had really changed since last Monday’s disaster in Seattle.” Packers G T.J. Lang said, “It was pretty close to having a little case of déjà vu, but we ended up pulling it out in the end” (Appleton POST-CRESCENT, 10/1). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted after Fox’ Troy Aikman said the NFL officials had been "rock stars all week long," Fox’ Joe Buck “picked up on the comparison.” Buck said, "When (referee) Jeff Triplette walked out (at Lambeau), it was like (Paul) McCartney walking out on the stage. Never been a welcome like that." But Buck later said the affection for the regular refs among Packers fans "lasted shorter than a Kardashian marriage" (JSONLINE.com, 9/30). CBSSPORTS.com’s Gregg Doyel wrote, “Careful what you ask for, Mr. Official, because you're about to get it. Want more money? You're getting it. More respect? Getting that, too.” But with “all of that should come, will come, more scrutiny” (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/28).

TIME WAS OF THE ESSENCE: In Boston, Greg Bedard noted Patriots Owner Robert Kraft “didn’t have as large a role in ending the officials lockout as he did in the player lockout,” but he was in N.Y. for “the better part of the last week assisting in any way he could.” A source said that Kraft was “part of a small group of moderate owners who served as a sounding board for commissioner Roger Goodell as he tried to get the deal done.” Kraft said, “I understand the fans being disappointed that this didn’t happen right away. Believe me, we wanted it. The good news is we have a long-term deal, the integrity of the game is protected, and we have the highest-qualified guys in it” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/30). Giants President & CEO John Mara said, "In two weeks, this will be forgotten, and we'll be back to criticizing the regular referees." But on Long Island, Bob Glauber noted it is “unlikely that fans soon will forget the officiating chaos of the first three weeks of the season.” There “never has been anything quite like this in NFL history, but Mara believes things will be better in the long run.” Mara: "It's a good long-term deal we got, and now we can go back to focusing on the game" (NEWSDAY, 9/29).

THE INK IS DRY: The AP’s Schuyler Dixon reported the NFLRA, after a “few hours of final preparations” with league officials “approved a new eight-year contract with the league by a 112-5 vote Saturday, officially ending” the lockout. The referees met for “about an hour and a half Friday night to go over the contract, then gathered for another 30 minutes Saturday morning before approving the contract” (AP, 9/29). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Goodell “pushed an agenda to improve officiating overall" during the negotiations, and within the next year or two, there could be an "overhaul of the league’s football operations department." Sources said that it "could influence high-ranking leadership changes and renewed discussions about moving a portion of football operations out of New York to a site that would also serve as headquarters for a group of full-time officials starting in 2013.” ESPN’s Adam Schefter added there has “already been ongoing discussions about forming an officiating expert committee” consisting of retired officials, supervisors of major college conferences, current officials with "proven excellence” and GMs, coaches and “possibly an owner.” Schefter: “It would be a cross-section of experienced people made up much the same way that the NFL’s Competition Committee is formed” (“Sunday NFL Countdown,” ESPN, 9/30).

PARTING WORDS: In Montreal, Jack Todd writes all “that ‘protect the shield’ garbage is a lot of hot air.” The NFL owners “were only too happy to tarnish the shield in order to avoid paying into the pension plan for regular referees -- a few million bucks in a multi-billion-dollar business” (Montreal GAZETTE, 10/1). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote under the header, “NFL, Roger Goodell Burned By Arrogance In The Referee Fiasco” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 9/28). But in Miami, Dan Le Batard wrote the lockout was “really good for business.” Football was “No. 1 in every TV market with a team the first three weeks of the season.” That has “never happened before, ever, in America’s most popular sport.” Even though it was “after midnight, ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ after the Green Bay-Seattle fiasco was the highest rated in 17 years” (MIAMI HERALD, 9/30). Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom: “There’s some cynical person in a backroom of the NFL who doesn’t want to be named who goes, ‘This was great for business.’ All anybody did was talk about the NFL for the last couple of weeks” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 9/30). In Toronto, Dave Perkins wrote what “really made the NFL sit up and take action was this: It was messing with the betting money, and betting is what really and truly drives this league’s enormous popularity” (TORONTO STAR, 9/30).
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