There are certain things in this world that just don't make sense, but for some reason still exist. I'm inclined to label them as anomalies, but their recurring frequency prevents me from categorizing them as such. I've created a short list of the most ubiquitous, non-sensical existences in our world that I want to share for the sake of awareness: 1. Wine glasses with long stems 2. Fast food restaurants that close before midnight
3. Tips for pickup orders
4. Fresh water sharks
5. Anyone over the age of 85
6. Carpeted bathrooms
7. Human referees
As a former middle school "star" athlete who fought every single call, this one hits close to home. And with the CFB playoffs right around the corner, it seems more prevalent now than ever before.
Human refs are not only bad for sports, but they are an atrocity to the progress of our civilization. In an age where we are able to send space craft's 15 billion miles away from the sun, democratize artificial intelligence, and create cars that run on electricity & hydrogen, it seems odd that we can't replace the fat guy wearing a cup that stands behind home plate with a computer-generated program. To me that feels similar to trying to keep meat fresh with salt after the invention of freezers. The NFL, where refs seem to be the most problematic, pay their 119 referees an average annual salary north of $205,000. For those wondering, that's right around $25m total salaried expenses. That does not include the cost of travel, lodging and meals, which the NFL also fits the bill for. Additionally, because NFL refs are a part of a union (NFLRA), they are granted access to some of the world's best retirement benefits. The focal elements being an annual league contribution of $23,000 made on behalf of each game official to a retirement plan and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.
Based on these figures, I hypothesize that the NFL is spending over $50m annually on employing referees.
I watched an NFL game this past week and at one point, at the tail end of a punt, a ref threw his hat in the wind to mark where he believed the ball went out of bounds.... In "the game" that is considered "of inches", doesn't it seem odd that we are still relying on an old man's hand eye to determine the start, middle and end of each drive?
I take comfort in knowing that I share this sentiment with others. Anecdotally, fans on social media are completely outraged and it even seems that the in-game announcers are beginning to become fed up with the state of officiating.
In a recent study, 70% of NFL players surveyed provided a rating of 4-7 for officials, out of 10.
So, lets summarize. Fans are unhappy. Players are unhappy. It's costing the league a shit ton of money. And yet, the NFL just extended a collective bargaining agreement with the NFLRA, that extends their contract through the end of 2026... Something isn't adding up.
I'm no conspiracy theorist, but something tells me that the league likes the human element of refs because it provides them an avenue to control the outcomes of close games. Undisputable outcomes provided by technology does not allow executives to control narratives that are more lucrative for their front offices. The trade-off they are making is $50m for the ability to get the teams they want into the games they want.
So maybe I am a conspiracy theorist after all.