LESSONS LEARNED

Posted in Quick Hits on September 18th, 2012 by Ed

We cannot agree about much in this country, but over the past few weeks we have formed a single united front in opposition to the scabs officiating our football games. The NFL referees are on strike and the league, being a trillion-dollar industry based on providing a product people actually enjoy watching, decided to hire a gaggle of "replacements" from the ranks of high school and small college (non-NCAA) officials. Since professional and amateur football have different rules – in some cases very different – the results have been predictably disastrous. From their failure to do basic things like spot the ball and operate the game clock to major rules of which they appear to be totally ignorant, they have proven thus far that there is nothing they can't botch.

So why is this not reserved for NPF and the "Skip this if you hate sports" tag?

You might think that a tiny light bulb is appearing over the heads of a lot of white American males – the only group that cast a majority of its votes for John McCain in 2008, and also the primary audience demographic of the NFL – as they realize: Hmm, maybe all human capital is not interchangeable, and maybe there are some noticeable downsides to a market in which whoever will work for the least gets the job. On the one hand, the scab referees are much cheaper than the unionized "real" refs. On the other hand, they are fucking terrible. On this point there is no disagreement.

Applying this concept to other areas of the economy (replace "NFL ref" and "scab" with "union airplane mechanic" and "some guy in Alabama who took a 10-day training course and will work for United $11/hr") would be logical at this point, but I wonder to what extent this is sinking in with the great masses of people who spend Sundays in front of the TV appalled at the incompetence of these replacements. The evidence is right in front of us and it's bleedingly obvious – In a surplus labor market you can always find someone willing to do a job for less, but they're probably not going to do it well. Even the type of person who blames the work stoppage on the union – They're "greedy", after all – can't deny that the end result is the replacement of trained, experienced professionals with a clown car load of knuckleheads who act like they've never seen a football before.

We (or at least half of us) continue to believe that everyone is easily replaced in this economy. If the teachers want too much money, just fire them all and bring in someone else. There are lots of unemployed people and, hell, anyone can teach high school! That we have evidence to the contrary provided by our new national pastime should, but probably will not, disabuse us of this notion.