Be nice to those who have wronged you…unless they are paid

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The NFL’s newest installment of drama and entertainment has come with the replacement referees. Depending on how closely you’ve followed the downturn of union talks this summer, you may or may not have any particular viewpoint toward the situation, except for one: GET THE REGULAR REFS BACK!

If you share that notion, I am definitely with you.

I am not blaming the replacement refs for my inadequacy to field a winning fantasy team. I want to be clear about that. But, in the last month and a half, it has become apparent that labor talks and union bosses will cause me great displeasure with professional sports this fall and winter. I am speaking, of course, not only of the NFL, but of the impending NHL lockout as well.

Yes, money rules the day. I have embraced it.

But why in the last several decades have strikes, lockouts, and replacements become such commonplace in sports?

When the movie The Replacements, starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman, first came out in 2000, the idea of sports lockouts was more-or-less a rarity and a slightly humorous aside. This was only twelve years ago.

This is not the case anymore. Last year, the NBA season was shortened by 16 games and the lockout lasted 161 days, where players and coaches were forbidden to talk to each other. (The NBA lockout was infamously satired when Jeffery Kessler agitatedly said that the owners were treating the players like “plantation workers.”)

As sports find new sources of revenue, be they by advertising, telecommunications, or merchandise, it seems every specialty of the sport wants its cut. This year’s NHL lockout is exactly that: additions to television revenue, mainly by the new NBC Sports Network Suite, have caused a dispute over less than a whole percentage point of which groups get what share of the payout.

In the case of the replacement referees, the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) and the NFL did not come to terms on the collective bargaining agreement before it expired back in June.

If you’ve read my articles in past, I’ve slammed unions plenty, particularly on the issue of collective bargaining. For those who still support collective bargaining as an effective means of labor protection, there is one thing I believe you are missing. These referees are now out of work. And, just like many other professions, when unions tell them to grab a sign and start marching, no one gets paid for not working.

As I’ve also mentioned in the past, sports need unions about as much as the government needs more administrative workers. From my perspective, the labor unions in sports are just extra overhead and collateral damage waiting to happen.

In this scenario, the collateral damage is, in fact, the money that the NFL and NFLRA cannot agree upon. This is how I have broken down all the collateral damages done by this labor dispute and simplified them to just money:

Television strain and game efficiency. CBS Sports released an article on Wednesday detailing some performance statistics between the NFLRA referees and the replacement refs. Among these statistics, CBS reported that the average number of penalties per game (14.7) is on pace with last year’s average (15.2). As far as the number of penalties is concerned, the replacements are doing a fine job.

What is more of an issue is the amount of time spent for replays. Per game, the number of replays that are done by the oversight referees (those “upstairs in the booth” re-evaluating calls made on the field) is up sixteen from last season. On average, if each replay takes about two minutes, the average length of a game increases by as much as half an hour.

In monetary terms, that’s a thirty-minute TV syndication that was not aired, dropping the show and network’s revenue down by as much as $1+ million in primetime. For shows that are supposedly live that follow a Sunday afternoon of football, this could mean as much as $10-20 million. (Additionally, either the viewers will miss the show or the end of the game). Essentially, the longer the game, the more money becomes collateral damage.

Las Vegas and the fans. The fans may be the least affected of those mentioned above, but they are by no means the smallest group to be affected. The fans’ losses can be the most expansive though. For every blown call by the replacement refs, an extra point here or there may be lost on a fan’s fantasy team. What is much more severe, however, is when a blown call begins affecting the Vegas spread for sports betting.

Fox News reported Thursday that Vegas casino officials are considering altering the current points spread for each game because of small changes in the overall game outcome. For example, Fox News noted that home teams are getting 55.1% of favorable penalties compared to last year’s 54.8%. Even though this is only 0.3%, and to ordinary people, this is a very negligible effect, the casinos in Vegas seem to think differently. Pregame.com’s R.J. Bell told AP that “When you’re taking hundreds of thousands of dollars per game, those half points are really meaningful.”

Though I am no gambling expert, it would suffice that if casinos are concerned about this, then the gamblers ought to be as well. Any change in the spread could cause the casinos to win more and subsequently affect the gambler negatively. Collateral damage: money.

When collateral damage is money, no one is happy. But even if you happen to lose money, as NFL executives have said, be nice to the refs. After all, it’s the unions’ fault.