I hope we don’t blow the call

I'm a fan of an NFL team that went 2-1 during the first three games of the season, under which replacement referees had a subpar performance filling in for locked-out officials. I'm one of the lucky fans, because my 49ers won two games and lost one game convincingly; replacement refs couldn't be the tipping point.

For other fans (it rhymes with "Clean Day Sackers"), not so much. The image of a botched call with no time left that cost the Sackers a win will be the easiest thing to remember about the lockout that was settled over the weekend.

I just hope our memories don't stop there.

First, let's not fall into the fallacy that when there's a labor dispute in pro sports, it's a strike because those greedy workers are in pro sports and should be happy with what they get. Go search for "strike-shortened season" on NBA.com, and all instances describe the 1999 season. That was a lockout, no matter how much the NBA wishes otherwise.

The larger point came to me during a discussion with a friend. He said the entire dispute — the one where the officials offered to work during negotiations, and were locked out — was the fault of the referees who would not let pensions be dissolved. They should have relented for the good of the game, even if the league did not.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to agree, when he pretty much admitted the league could easily afford referee pensions, but just didn't want to pay them.

"From the owners' standpoint, right now they're funding a pension program that is a defined benefit program," Goodell told The Huffington Post. "About 10 percent of the country has that. Yours truly doesn't have that. It's something that doesn't really exist anymore and that I think is going away steadily."

The basic argument is this: The guy who's asking you if you want one shot of mocha or two doesn't get a pension, so why should crucial employees in the league's most profitable sport?

I'm sorry, but I missed the memo about the NFL conducting need-based negotations.

Certainly, "yours truly" doesn't need a $20 million salary, and he didn't need a $10 million raise in February (the amount of the raise would have settled the lockout three times over). But he negotiated for it, and got it.

The NFL didn't need to introduce personal seat licenses at its stadiums — essentially, charging somebody for the privelege of buying a season ticket. But the leeague did it anyway, because there was a financial motivation in it. Same argument with teams charging fans annually to stay on season ticket waiting lists.

And it's the same argument with the players. Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals doesn't need more money than Jeremy Maclin of the Eagles. But he gets it, because he's a better receiver than Maclin.

So yeah, 90 percent of the nation doesn't have a pension plan, but it's a question of how you value employees. They're getting something less than 10 percent of Americans get, because less than 10 percent of Americans can do their job.

We can remember this labor dispute as a strike, or the lockout that it really was. We can talk about the referees wanting something they didn't need, or we can talk about skilled workers getting more benefits than unskilled workers.

I hope we don't blow the call.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by email:

kwilson@cnjonline.com

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