If you are expecting my column about the Chicago teachers pension, I apologize for disappointing. I cannot help outline the lesson learned at the hands of the NFL union referees. As you know, they were on strike until the writing of this column Sept. 27, when we awoke to the great news that an agreement has been reached. I will admit, I do not watch NFL football because I am totally committed to watching the most intense grueling competition of man versus man, woman versus woman, and man versus woman, since the Roman Gladiators: “Project Runway.”
On “Project Runway,” I have only seen blood once in 10 seasons and plenty of tears. Now that is a real game. I like that there is no need for instant replay and I totally trust Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. They are the true referees of good taste and fashion.
Now back to the refs: How did we get here? Well, the first NFL referee strike was in September 2001. At the time, the refs made $1,431 per game to as much as $4,330 per game and wanted a 400 percent raise. The NFL offered 40 percent. At the last minute, the NFL offered incremental raises; a 60 percent increase for the first year, followed by an 85 percent increase for 2002 and a 100 percent increase in 2003. The refs called it “out of bounds,” and a strike ensued, replacement refs were hired. A couple of games later, “Voila,” and strike is resolved on Sept. 27. The refs agreed to a six-year contract, with 50 percent increase every year for six years. Yes, that is a 300 percent increase assuming it was not compounded which would have amounted to a 1,005 percent increase. See why arithmetic is important?
Now you are probably asking how one gets to be a ref. First of all you must be in excellent physical shape; apparently, they have all the fatties on the field already. A candidate must have 10 years of experience officiating football, at least five years in a varsity collegiate or professional level (Canadian Football). The candidate must have experience as either a player or coach and submit a detailed officiating schedule for the past three seasons. Well I, for one, am glad to see that Jerry Sandusky could be a ref if he ever gets out of prison. Thankfully the standards to become a teacher are more stringent and Jerry Sandusky could never be a teacher.
So here we are, the Union refs are currently making $42,295 to $120,996 per season. Can you believe it? Only $42,295 for 16 games that last two and a half hours with commercial breaks. How do they do it? Not to worry — there is one referee and six officials per game, supervising 22 adult men. In teacher speak, that is class size equivalent of 3.14 adult men per ref.
The strike was over the “pension.” The refs want to continue their pension — not to be confused with a 401K. After all, the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated he does not get a “pension,” failed to mention he gets a humble $20 million salary. He doesn’t need a pension. By the way, this “pension” the refs want to continue is the same type of “pension” the Chicago Public Schools teachers have, except CPS and the financially disastrous state of Illinois have chronically under-contributed to the teacher’s pension for 10 years — with the state’s blessing. CPS intends to make up for the under-contributions by over-contributing starting in 2014.
Good grief these men supervise 3.14 adult men who have played the game for at least 10 years, televised and with a rule book that is bigger than the bible for far more than a CPS teacher. I know teachers that have 30 students in the classroom (the state limit is 32), work a full day, five days a week and make less than $120,996. I personally find it interesting that when a player fails to make the catch, score or does not achieve the first down, the coaches do not get blamed. Yet if little Johnny fails a standardized test, we blame the teacher.
Here is the headline news: I have heard from friends that professional sports generate tax revenues. I hope so, as professional sports are the second largest beneficiaries of federal, state and local tax breaks second only to the energy industry. To their point, which I think is flawed and has yet to be proven, how is the tax on a $5 hot dog and a $7.50 beer generate enough tax to pay for a $500 million dollar arena? But here is something that is indisputable, nothing generates tax revenue like a good education, and you may quote me. But the real lesson learned here is what President John F. Kennedy said almost 75 years ago:
“Modern cynics and skeptics see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.”
And I will add, “entrust the care of their officiating.”
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