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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

The NFL's latest labor woes give us a chance to look in the mirror

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Enjoy your moment in the NFL jungle, zebras.

Pro football officials return this week and they'll probably be greeted with a standing-o when they take their first steps onto the 2012 gridiron.  Fans eager for NFL normalcy will hail Ed Hochuli and his cohorts with a hero's welcome after suffering through three weeks of chaos.

The love ends with the dropping of yellow laundry against the home team.

So what did we learn from this three-week sojourn?  Here are a few of my favorite takeaways.

-- Chicago Tribune's John Kass  labels the NFL a reality show for gamblers.   The NFL doesn't like to talk about wagering but it's the elephant in the room.   Huge amounts of cash change hands each weekend through tried and true pick-em situations.   Toss in pools, Pick 5's, and other mutations and we're talking piles of money.  

-- ESPN's Steve Young reminding us about the "inelastic" demand for the game amid the bevy of blown calls and rules misinterpreted rules and bad spots on the field.  It was his delicate way of saying, "If you rubes at home are going to keep watching this crap, the league is more than happy to serve it up while turning an obscene profit". 

-- I didn't like Seattle head coach Pete Carroll before Monday night's abomination.  Now I REALLY dislike him after seeing his post-game antics and hearing his comments after being handed a gift.   He skated before the hammer came down at USC for crimes committed on his watch, then has the gall to try to peddle the stolen win the other night as the proper reward for his team's hard work.  Dude is like a snail--leaves a trail of slime wherever he goes.

-- We are reminded once again just how much of a cash cow the NFL is.  A Forbes article points out that the league is unique in that it is now appealing to more and more women, covering more demographics and delivering more bang for the buck than ever to willing advertisers.   And, unlike prime time TV shows and other fare that can be DVR'd (allowing us to skip ads), pro football fans want to see the games in the moment.  Sharing the experience live means ingesting the ads, which only embellishes their potency.

-- Some go deeper: an LA Times columnist looks into how the plight of the referees mirrors what might be happening in your factory or office: how more and more companies are moving away from fixed pension plans and shifting to 401k's.

Is any of this new?  Not really.  We know pro football is a colossal industry, far more than just a game.  We already knew people like to gamble on it.  And, we were self-aware enough to realize we're addicted to it--hell, we once watched replacement PLAYERS, so should we be surprised we'd tolerate replacement officials?

What we didn't know was when the referees would be back.   The answer is tonight.  And the consensus is: not a moment too soon.

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