Some foul calls by replacement referees led to much gnashing of teeth and crushing of beer cans around the country this week. Union referees had been locked out by N.F.L. managers (they’ve since settled their differences), and the temporary zebras running the field seemed to be using a rule book devised by Hal Roach. Fans and players alike took to the twitter-sphere to express their disgust after a series of memorable midfield maldecisions. Nowhere was the horror more keenly felt than in Wisconsin, after the beloved Green Bay Packers had a win stolen by a fumbled decision as time ran out against the Seattle Seahawks.
Football and unionism make strange bedfellows. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Congressman and V.P. candidate Paul Ryan, not exactly notable fans of all things unionized, experienced fourth-down conversions in grudging acknowledgments that the professional, unionized refs were clearly missed on America’s football fields of glory. “After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs,” Gov. Walker tweeted to the malicious delight of public sector workers—and fans of irony—throughout the cheesehead region.
“Give me a break. It is time to get the real refs,” said Congressman Ryan before finding a way, somehow, to compare the hapless refs to the president’s handling of the economy. Perhaps the greatest reality stretching came from radio personality Rush Limbaugh who at various points blamed the poor on-field performances on American liberalism, affirmative action, and, of course, President Obama before asserting that the replacement refs were just as competent as the union pros they covered for (#cuzunionsarealwaysbad?).
It’s doubtful that the scandal on the Astroturf will lead to a union revival in America. As the private sector completes its final discard of union employees, public sector unionized workers will no doubt remain the target of a plutocrats’ blitz. The referee kerfuffle, however, reminds that something does actually remain sacrosanct in America: Sunday afternoon. You’re still all on your own Sunday morning.