I watched in agony as the NFL's replacement officials botched a call in the final seconds of Monday Night Football's match between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, costing Green Bay a critical victory. As a hardcore Packers fan, I had experienced such misery only once before, and that came courtesy of a Super Bowl loss at the hands of the Denver Broncos. The Super Bowl defeat caused me to fall into such throes of mourning that I wore Green Bay gear to school every day for at least two weeks after the big game, and I faced the incessant ridicule with as much pride as I could muster.
Those feelings immediately returned when the NFL's replacement officials somehow managed to call an interception that would have won the game for Green Bay a touchdown pass for the Seahawks instead. It was a low I never wished to experience again, though at least this time I knew I wasn't alone. The NFL community has been set ablaze with controversy over the replacement officials, with even the likes of NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman tweeting, "These games are a joke."
Though I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, just a block away from the high school hallways Packers superstar Greg Jennings once roamed, Green Bay has always been a second home. My grandfather was born and raised in De Pere, Wisconsin, a tiny suburb of Green Bay just across the Fox River. My grandfather raised my father to be a Packers fan and would take him to Green Bay to watch the Packers practice. Continuing the tradition, every year my father would take me to Green Bay to watch Packers training camp, and those days of summer will forever hold some of my fondest memories. From the city's passion for the team to the local kids who ride players to the practice facility on their bicycles, I love Green Bay as much as a person possibly can love a city, and I look forward to one day continuing my family's tradition by bringing my own child to watch the Packers practice. And that is why it breaks my heart to say this: if you're a Packers fan living in Wisconsin and are upset with the poor officiating against Seattle, you need to just shut up.
It's an old cliché but it rings far too true: when things don't go well, the first place to look is the mirror. And that is why I couldn't help but notice the painful irony that Green Bay became the first team to suffer a devastating loss due to the NFL's replacement officials. After all, it only makes sense that the first victim of replacement worker incompetence would occur in Wisconsin, the first state to throw a hay-maker at collective bargaining and unions. The same state that not only elected Governor Scott Walker, a man who passed legislation essentially stripping unions of all powers to collectively bargain, but then elected him once again by an even wider margin in a recall election, making Walker only the third governor in American history to be recalled and the first incumbent to win his recall election. The State of Wisconsin wanted to limit union power, and Packer fans in Wisconsin got their first taste of their wish. And it's bitter.
NFL owners locked out NFL officials over arguments about an increase in pension, instead opting to begin the NFL season with replacement officials from places like the Lingerie Football League. The move by the NFL was, and still is, baffling. The NFL isn't hurting in the value department, with the NFL raking in around $35.5 billion when every NFL team's worth is added together. And NFL owners certainly can't argue that they're not making money. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, purchased the team in 1994 for $175 million. Today the Patriots are the second most valuable franchise, weighing in at a cool worth of $1.6 billion. One can understand why Kraft is pinching his pennies when he's made over $900 million in such a short span of time by simply owning a team and watching the NFL's popularity explode.
To put this in perspective, the average NFL official was paid $8,764 per game last season, meaning they made around $140,000 if they officiated all sixteen regular season games. Even if the officials' salaries were doubled -- which is not what the NFLRA is seeking -- the cost of meeting their demands would only amount to 0.004% of the NFL's total profits. Seeing the NFL lock out officials over such little money, I have to wonder whether my fellow Packers fans in Wisconsin are feeling differently about limiting collective bargaining after seeing some of its tangible results.
It hurt to watch my Green Bay Packers lose a must-win football game due to the shoddy work of replacement officials who have absolutely no business walking the NFL's sidelines. But what hurts even more is that Packers fans got exactly what they voted for.