Two Lockouts Collide in Seattle
They are two labour lockouts seemingly unrelated, except both are producing the effect of screeching fingernails against the integrity blackboards of their sports.
In both instances, rich owners have decided to put the reputation of their very industries at risk over a matter of dollars and cents. In neither case do they have to do what they have done, but they are doing it anyway.
First the NFL. Monday night's Seattle-Green Bay contest, presided over by replacement officials as has every exhibition and regular season game so far with the regular zebras locked out by league owners, was decided by a blatantly incorrect call to conclude a night of bizarre and frequently wrong officiating decisions.
This was, in the end, a game stolen from the Packers. Instead of crediting defensive back M.D. Jennings with an interception in the end zone on a last second, Hail Mary play by the Seahawks, Seattle receiver Golden Tate was credited with the game-winning score despite never having full possession of the football. Adding to the mess was the fact that Tate first got a way with blatant offensive pass interference, and then the two officials who first arrived on the play made different calls.
"This one's going to cause a stir," said Monday Night Football commentator and former NFL head coach Jon Gruden, who also labelled the result a "fiasco" and "comical."
The post-TD moments turned to farce, with both teams having to be retrieved from their dressing rooms to play out the extra-point convert, which by rule had to be done. Green Bay players sorted through bins to find an acceptable helmet to put on for the moment, while a jubilant Seattle head coach Pete Carroll broke away from a TV interview to run down the field and gleefully watched the conclusion of the thievery.
The NFL can no longer argue the replacement refs are doing a competent job. In fact, as former Indianapolis GM Bill Polian said on the FAN590 on Monday, the "lousy" officiating is getting worse, not better, while teams are increasingly trying to get away with anything and everything to gain an advantage. Angry coaches are grabbing officials, replacements are being taken out of games because they admit to being fans of certain teams and the result is increasing mayhem.
The only good thing? It's deflected attention away from the fact presidential candidate Mitt Romney apparently believes you should be able to open windows on airplanes at 35,000 feet.
Social media, not surprisingly, erupted after the game, with contributions from athletes like Lebron James and some of the players involved in the game.
"Any player/coach in Seattle that really thinks they won that game has zero integrity as a man and should be embarrassed," tweeted Green Bay lineman T.J. Lang.
Lang added: "F--- it NFL.. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs."
The officials lockout is now deciding games, and possibly playoff spots. If any one event might get the owners to end their lockout, the Packers-Seahawks result might be the one.
Then there's the NHL lockout of its players.
With record revenues and no real issue at hand beyond the distribution of more than $3 billion, NHL owners have shut down their sport for the third time in 18 years. Hockey fans over the years have almost always sided with the owners in these disputes, but there's a different scent in the air this time.
It started with Philly's obscene free agent offer to Nashville defenceman Shea Weber early in the summer, an instance in which one of the league's old guard owners and hawks, Ed Snider, was seen to be clearly stretching the limits of collective bargaining agreement just to try and get a player, and hurting the Predators in the process. The Flyers didn't even end up getting Weber.
Then came the series of absurd contracts to players in the midst of their entry-level deals that came in the final weeks before the lockout. At the same time they were crying for financial relief and for players to take less, individual owners from teams like Carolina, Edmonton and Boston were lavishing unnecessary riches on young players using the very long-term contracts they seek to ban in a new CBA.
That has created a widespread impression that the NHL owners don't need a better deal for their business, they just want a better deal, or at least want a larger piece of the pie than they were able to win in the 2004-05 lockout that destroyed an entire season and was supposed to provide a new economic infrastructure to prevent further labour woes.
It hasn't, and Oilers owner Daryl Katz seemed to personify the mindless greed of the owners on Monday when, in the hours before the NFL game in the same city, he "visited" with officials in Seattle about the possibiity of moving the Edmonton franchise to Washington State.
Katz has no such intention, of course. What he's trying to do is wring more concessions out of Edmonton on a new $475 million arena after first agreeing to a deal, then subsequently telling city council he wants millions of dollars in new concessions.
The Oilers are already profitable and have an extremely loyal fan base that has continued to buy tickets despite the dreadful showing of the team in recent years under Katz's ownership. To reflect upon the the passing last week of Art Modell, the man who moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore and in so doing became the most hated man in Ohio, Katz clearly knows as an Edmonton native he would be risking similar pariah status if he tried to move the Oilers.
He isn't going to. He just wants to try and blackmail the city and is using Seattle to help him in the same way Peter Pocklington once threatened to move to Hamilton and Houston.
Just like the rest of the NHL owners in their fight against the players, Katz is behaving like an insatiable businessman who just wants more and doesn't mind holding the game and hockey fans hostage to his avarice. He was more than willing to unnecessarily give Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle tens of millions of dollars in extensions after the second year of their three-year entry level contracts, but now is claiming he can't possibly do business in Edmonton unless city taxpayers cough up millions of dollars more.
Gary Bettman can muzzle the owners, although that didn't stop Jimmy Devellano from uttering some disrespectful words that will undoubtedly buttress the resolve of the players union.
But Bettman can't stop the owners from showing, through their actions, that they are more carpetbaggers than custodians of this great sport.
The NFL and NHL didn't intend to convene in Seattle on Monday to put their combined greed and recklessness on display. But they surely did.