Let's put the NFL'S officiating dispute in terms we can all understand: Suppose your boss comes to you one day and says you and your co-workers are doing a fine job, and he'd like to give you a big raise.
Business has been good, revenues have been high and the future looks bright, so the boss says he'd like to increase your pay by around 75 percent right off the bat. In two years, you'll double your current salary.
Sounds pretty tempting, right? Especially since the work is only on weekends from August through January, which means you also can draw a handsome salary in another line of work.
But after listening to the boss' offer, you turn around and say it's not good enough. Not nearly good enough. A few other companies in town are paying their employees four times what you're making, and you say the only fair thing to do is match those salaries. Forget that the workers at those companies are putting in far more hours than you are, and don't have any time to make money in another career.
Now, you decide: Are the NFL officials right in holding out for salaries comparable to those of their full-time brethren in Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association? Or are they using flawed logic in determining their true value? I'll take the latter.
Unfortunately for the NFL, the NFL Referees Association is putting the league and its players in a bind by failing to accept what appears to be a fair and reasonable contract offer. Replacement officials will be used, beginning with Thursday night's preseason games, including Jets-Eagles, and there is the very real possibility that the season will open Sept. 9 with these fill-ins from the NCAA, NFL Europe and the Arena League.
"It really depends on the other side becoming more reasonable than they've been," NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Wednesday. "We made a very generous, fair offer that doubles their compensation within two years. In most industries, by most standards, that's pretty strong. So I really think it's up to them."
Negotiators for the union haven't been willing to budge, and the stare-down continues, with no end in sight. That's too bad, because there's a strong offer on the table for the officials, who are being short-sighted in pushing for salary standards that are not in line with the demands of the job.
Yes, NFL officials are every bit as important to their sport as baseball umpires, basketball referees and hockey refs and linesmen, and they deserve a significant raise. But the workload isn't the same, so the amount of the raise must reflect that. NFL officials work week.
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