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Ben Smith

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Time to lock out commissioner

– So here’s what we do now: Call in the replacement commissioner.

Roger Goodell, you’re officially locked out. Someone else will take your place, in hopes that (unlike you, Rog) he’ll see the wisdom of not turning a multibillion dollar entertainment empire into the football equivalent of Honey Boo-Boo.

Emphasis on “boo-boo.”

Did you see that mess out in Seattle, Rog?

Seriously, it can’t get more clowns-on-unicycles than this. Seattle receiver Golden Tate never had the football. Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings did, eventually. Somehow the officials ruled a Tate catch, a Seattle touchdown and a Seattle victory on the last play of the game.

Hail what?

Not Hail Mary, certainly. More like Hail to the Cheap.

That would be you, Roger Goodell, and no wriggling off the hook this time. You and the owners you represent locked out the real refs, brought in Howdy and Doody, and turned the Shield into Tupperware. And all so the NFL, which was generating $9 billion a year the last I looked, could save what amounts to the spare change on your dresser.

Look. No one’s saying the real refs aren’t being pigheaded about this, too. The league, actually, is putting a chunky offer on the table for what amounts to part-time work. So Real Ref needs to get over himself, too.

But Real Ref didn’t walk out on you, Rog. You put him on the street. And then you brought in scabs who, for all their earnest efforts, simply are not up to the job.

That crew who blew up Monday Night Football this week?

Two of them are former Pac-12 officials who were let go because they weren’t considered good enough for the Pac-12. Now they’re calling NFL games?

Little wonder they’re doing the Banana Peel Shuffle out there, and even less wonder that the coaches and players are dissing them.

Oh, sure, you can fine ’em for that from now till doomsday, but it won’t make a whit of difference. You can’t legislate respect, for one thing. For another, this is the NFL, where the most ingrained instinct of them all is sniffing out weakness and exploiting it. And the scab refs, last seen doing NAIA games and the like, are the weakness.

It’s not their fault, really. One weekend you’re dealing with the coach of Whatsamatta U.; the next, Bill Belichick’s grabbing your arm and yammering in your ear. Or Mike Shanahan and not one but two of his assistants are hollering at you over a call.

Scab Ref could put an end to that simply by looking at Shanahan and saying, “Mike, get these two clowns out of my face or two things are going to happen. They’re going to be out of the game, and this conversation will be over.”

Scab Ref, however, isn’t going to do that. And it’s unfair to expect him to.

So, here’s the deal, Rog: You sit down with the real refs, and you get down to cases. Enough dawdling. Enough playing chicken with your product. Enough putting the players’ well-being at risk, because we all know how much you like to prattle on about the players’ well-being.

All of that’s a crock, if you persist in this. And if you do, it’s time to lock you out, Rog, and bring in someone with credentials comparable to those of your scab officials.

Larry, Curly or Moe. Your pick.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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