So it took just a couple days after that Monday Night Football debacle, but the NFL and the referees quickly got back together and solved their problems in record time. And the zebras even got standing ovations over the weekend.
The interesting aspect of this labor strife getting solved after some gnarly exhibition games and three weeks of regular season controversies is that no metrics, deliverables, financial projections, or spreadsheets were involved in getting both sides back to the bargaining table.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) is a pragmatic executive. Owners like Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, and Jeffrey Lurie are bottom liners. You know that acronyms like EBITDA and ROI are constant parts of their discussions, as they weigh values like scalability, growth potential, and net asset value of their investments.
So you know, they had been evaluating all sorts of metrics during the time when the regular NFL refs were not on the field. Would fans still show up to the games in the same numbers as before? Would the ratings hold up?
Essentially, what would be the hard costs of an extended work stoppage by the officials? And at the end of the day (as they’d say), aren’t these officials replaceable? Couldn’t college refs and others with officiating experience do their jobs?
And obviously, the sense was that the fans, media, players, and coaches would simply put up with it. “Where else are they going to go?” on Sundays (Mondays and Thursdays) had to be the most-asked questions in the executive suites of NFL teams.
Yet, the decision to bargain and solve this labor strife in record time had nothing to do with the numbers.
It had everything to do with fan passion, player and coach anger, and negative media coverage. But some of the greatest derision was reserved for social media outlets, as fans everywhere gathered to discuss their frustration and disgust with the NFL owners.
No metrics, no financial forecasting, no CFOs.
The emotional pushback from every key community that impacts the NFL, from media stories to Facebook and Twitter insanity, motivated Goodell and the owners to stop the nickel and diming and cut a deal.
Even Obama and Romney stopped their normal campaigning to weigh in, understanding full well just how big an issue the replacement ref controversy was to people.
Even in an environment where there are only 32 teams – “the only game in town” – the owners simply had to fix the problem before last Thursday night’s Ravens-Browns game.
The power of emotion.
The power of passion.
The power of fans.