Pro football keeps fumbling

Unlike in baseball, basketball or hockey, where the seasons are long and individual games may be quickly forgotten, one game makes a huge difference in the NFL. When you have won a hard-fought game, only to have the referees take it away, it is awful. In a highly competitive league, one game can mean the difference between keeping and losing your job as a coach, or your roster spot as a player. …

Still, it would be wrong for the NFL to make a bad business decision and give in to the regular referees’ demands just to end the lockout. Unlike officials in the NBA, MLB or NHL, the NFL’s referees work only part-time. And then just 21 weeks of the year unless they are chosen to officiate in the post season. The NFL didn’t become the most successful franchise in the history of professional sports by making bad business decisions. The idea that the locked-out officials have a gun to the league’s head is laughable.

But that doesn’t mean the NFL hasn’t botched the way it has handled things. Major League Baseball proved that it is possible to replace officials. In a 1999 labor dispute, the league’s umpires resigned en masse; baseball responded by replacing them with new umpires with nary a glitch.