The howls of outrage after the unprecedented ending to the controversial Seattle-Green Bay game on Monday Night Football was the final straw in the ongoing dispute with the National Football League’s on-field officials. Several reports late Wednesday night said a tentative eight-year deal has been reached between the league and its locked-out officiating crews.
Although the deal would have to be ratified in person by the NFL Referees Association’s appointed representatives, a crew of experienced NFL officials will be available for the Thursday night game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. Thus ends three crazy weeks in which the replacements took no end of abuse, much of it justified for many blown calls and non-calls.
There is no doubt that a quick solution was needed to end the impasse. Millions of fans watched in disbelief as the Seahawks were awarded a touchdown which allowed them to grab a last-minute 14-12 victory away from the Packers, even spurring a mocking video from the infamous Taiwanese New Media Animation TV group (ADVISORY: the video narrative is in Cantonese and contains at least one graphic representation which may not be suitable for everyone).
It was the culmination of a seemingly never-ending series of humiliations to the point where even the normally shameless NFL owners had seen enough, deciding the pennies they were saving (and the point they were trying to make) were nowhere near enough to justify the denigration of the quality of games seen in 2012, as well as the erosion of the NFL brand.
“The long-term future of our game requires that we seek improvement in every area, including officiating,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement released by the league. “This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating.
“We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it’s time to put the focus back on the teams and players, where it belongs.”
All 121 officials represented by the NFLRA will return to action after being locked out by the league in June. The agreement happened after two days of marathon talks. The eight-year deal apparently includes retirement benefits for new hires and all officials by 2017. The officials, who work just under 40 hours per week, were each paid $149,000 in 2011; that will reportedly rise to $205,000 by the end of the agreement in 2019.
Welcome back, real zebras. We’ve missed you.