It’s one thing to complain, correctly, about the traveshamockery that are the NFL’s replacement officials generally and the botch job they did in the Packers–Seahawks game specifically.
If I were in NFL management, I’d be more concerned about reactions like this, from Automotive News’ Larry P. Vellequette:
For three weeks, automakers have spent millions of dollars advertising their products during games whose outcomes have been decided by wrong-headed calls made by folks who have no NFL experience — and no business being — on the field.
Look, blown calls are not new to professional football. But there was always an assurance that certain staple calls (spotting the ball, interpreting the rules accurately, etc.) would be handled correctly.
In short, muffed calls were the noticeable exception, not the rule for each and every game. Officials on the field kept control of the games, and disrespecting an official was verboten.
Now, what was a steady drip of blown officiating calls has turned first into a trickle, and then a stream of muffed decisions, infuriating fans on both sides of each of the league’s games.
Then on Monday night, during what used to be the NFL’s spotlight contest, the Green Bay Packers were robbed of a victory by what could most generously be called “amateur” officiating.
I’m no fan of the Packers, but I am a fan of fairness and professionalism — and Green Bay and its fans received neither.
So what does this have to do with the auto industry? Quite a bit, actually, because it’s the auto industry that is largely subsidizing this ongoing dispute through its continued advertising.
Meanwhile two of the NFL’s 30 teams — Detroit and Jacksonville — are owned by people who have made their money making cars and trucks. …
And, after seeing General Motors pour serious marketing money on European soccer this year, the NFL ought to realize it’s not the only game in town for sports advertising.
If I were a marketing chief for any automaker — with the possible exception of Ford Motor Co., whose family association with the Detroit Lions might put them in a special category — I don’t know that I’d want to showcase my vehicle in a venue that’s beginning to generate so much contempt and hatred.
Or, to put it in automotive terms, allow me to congratulate the NFL for transforming itself from the marketing equivalent of a Porsche 911 into a Pontiac Aztek.
The NFL’s 1987 strike, during which three games per team were played by replacement players, is remembered sort of fondly, but because of neither the quality of play nor fan support at the time. (The Packers’ last home non-sellout was during the 1987 strike.) The lockout so far demonstrates that, yes, the regular officials are considerably better than their replacements, particularly in, as Monday night’s last play demonstrated, knowledge of the rules. The NFL may not care about fans’ reaction, but the NFL had better care about what its sponsors think.
It’s analogous to a college football coach who wins less often than fans think he should. (See Bielema, Bret.) As long as his team fills the stands, administration is not likely to make a coaching change, regardless of Fire ______ movements. As soon as revenues drop as a result of fewer fans showing up (particularly in this era where stadiums generate revenues for their teams), management starts getting itchy. And if the NFL’s sponsors think they’re paying too much to support the product on the field (of which the opinion of officiating, more than actual officiating is a part), that should cause commissioner Roger Goodell sleepless nights.