Mavs' Moneyball is blessed to have a fairly international audience. To the point ,perhaps, where the NFL referees' strike didn't have as much of an effect on this community as many another sports-based one. This time of year, however, we're very much minded to think of strikes for the obvious reasons.
As I watched the furor surrounding the NFL strike, I found myself thinking of two other high-profile strikes of recent memory. One, the teachers' union strikes in Chicago, and the other of course last year's devastating NBA strike. And I found myself watching with growing fascination how each one was handled so differently.
A lot of people blamed the players for the NBA strike. Some blamed the owners, but I think it leaned the other way. In the teachers' strike, it was very hard either to get non-prejudicial information---all you could find on most news stations was that they wanted more than a 16% raise, which wasn't true and wasn't the point of the strike in any case.
The hardest of all however was finding anyone who was on the side of the league, in the referees' strike. This may not seem strange. Unlike NBA or NFL players, I imagine refs are not particularly overpaid. Unlike teachers, there is no sense in which referees are paid out of our pockets involuntarily. It's barely, slightly, not really true about teachers, but if refs are paid from NBA or NFL income, no one forced us to go to the games.
And yet no one asked---really, literally, ALMOST zero people, other than SBnation Dallas' Willie Funk, that I saw--what the refs wanted. I still don't know. Maybe you didn't find this strange. I did. I found it one of the stranger things I've seen, in terms of recent media trends. Why?
Because in a world in which we could reach near consensus that players, the people who put on the actual show, are way overpaid compared to owners who have 50 times as much, and who are always, always, always free not to pay players more money than they want to---in a world in which way overworked, way underpaid teachers, get slammed in the media because someone decided to call a "raise" the amount of money they were going to be paid for working 10 more hours a week or so than they had been working---no one was interested in what the refs wanted to come back and ref? Whatever they wanted was fine?
Obviously, there's a nice, easy explanation for this. The major difference between the referee strike and the other strikes is that only one of these impairs a product that is still being sold. That is, when NBA players aren't playing, there's no NBA, when teachers aren't teaching, there's no school, bin lifeut when refs aren't reffing, there's just a slightly crappier NFL. Everything's there, it's just a matter of spending a little extra cash--a pittance compared to the rest--to make it decent.
I'm not sure what I think about this, and I'm not going to tell you what to think, but the conclusion that I draw is that we, as a nation of sports fan (a world of sports fans, here), are, however we paint it, primarily interested in getting to watch our sport, not in the issues that sport might raise. We want our football officiate well, our basketball to be played during normal office hours, and our kids to go to school and stop bothering us for a few hours. This is far, far from a crime. It's easy to be idealistic when you don't have to figure out what to do with a 9 and 5 year old while you go to work, and it's easy to think that people who make millions don't have a right to complain about their place of work.
But there are times--and I'm not saying any of these are them, for sure--when we need to consider the cost of what keeps us in entertainment, in education, in day to day life, and ask is this the time, though it is a great inconvenience, to try to make things better. And I think it's okay, for some people, some of the time if the answer is yes, be they refs, teachers, or millionaires playing a game.