By Elizabeth DiNovella on September 24, 2012

Yesterday was an incredible display of NFL replacement refs in over their heads. In game after game, blown calls had major impacts on the outcomes.

After watching the Bears game, I flipped from one game to another and saw botched calls in every one: Dolphins vs Jets, Vikings vs 49ers, Lions vs Titans. I didn't even catch the more egregious ones, such as the missed calls on helmet to helmet hits on Tony Romo and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

I believe human error is part the game. Instant replay shouldn't be employed in every situation. And it's fair to expect a ref to make a knuckle-headed call every once in a while. Even the great Ed Hochuli is not immune to mistakes. But this is beyond simple error -- this is incompetence.

We have no one but the owners to blame, as they continue the lockout of the referees over retirement benefits. Last night, after yet another blooper reel highlight during the Patriots-Ravens match, TV commentator Cris Collinsworth asked both sides to continue to negotiate. (You know it's bad when you suddenly find yourself agreeing with Cris Collinsworth.)

Not just the fans and play-by-play announcers are howling for an end to the labor disagreement. The NFL Players Association wrote a letter to the owners yesterday, stating that the lockout "has led to a deterioration of order, safety, and integrity."

The letter continues:

"It is lost on us as to how you allow a Commissioner to cavalierly issue suspensions and fines in the name of player health and safety yet permit the wholesale removal of the officials that you trained and entrusted to maintain that very health and safety. It has been reported that the two sides are apart by approximately $60,000 per team. We note that your Commissioner has fined an individual player as much in the name of 'safety.' Your actions are looking more and more like simple greed."

Forbes reports there are 18 billionaires among the NFL's 31 owners, far more than any other American sport. (The exception, of course, is the Green Bay Packers, which is owned by public shareholders, aka Wisconsin Cheeseheads.)

"Most made their own money, some primarily through their ownership stakes in their teams," reports Forbes. "That says a lot about the power of the NFL -- where else can a millionaire become a billionaire by buying a sports team and watching it grow?"

So what are the owners thinking in continuing this lockout? They certainly aren't thinking about the players. They aren't thinking about the fans. They aren't thinking about the refs. Maybe they are just thinking of moving from millionaire to billionaire.

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Dark Money's Dark Role in Wisconsin Races."

Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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