What a string of news stories. Angry, protesting crowds popping up in one place after another. People wanting to work but unable to secure a job. A heated campaign. A demand for clear, red lines. Fast and Furious.
And that was all just the saga of the NFL referees!
Even if youre not a football fan, you couldnt have missed the uproar last week. The NFL had locked out its referees in a labor dispute. The replacement refs, already under fire for their lackluster performance, botched a decisive call in the Green Bay-Seattle game, ripping victory from the Packers and handing it to the Seahawks.
The replacement refs had made plenty of bad calls in the seasons first three weeks, but this one decided the games outcome, and in primetime on Monday Night Football, no less.
America erupted. Republican and Democrat, black and white, Cowboy and Redskin: They united, demanded change, and instantly got it.
Just as we were marveling at this turn of events, another hullabaloo broke out over an even more insignificant happening. Observer cartoonist Kevin Siers drew a cartoon poking fun at Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. It rifled through the NFL community nationwide, and was talked about ad nauseum on ESPN, Twitter and local sports talk radio.
I love the NFL and dont want to douse anyones passion. I just wish Americans showed the same fervor about red ink as they do the red zone, and got as outraged over missed opportunities as they do missed calls. Football fans naturally came together to demand that the league make things right. Wouldnt it be nice if Americans came together and demanded that the White House and Congress do the same?
Thats what it will take, after all. The NFL was confident that as the nations most popular sport, it could weather second-tier refereeing. Pressure built, though, and after the blown call in Seattle, the fans scorn was so intense that in 48 hours the league ended a lockout that had dragged on since June.
Lets be clear, when our NFL fans talk, we listen, Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted. If youre unhappy, were unhappy were here to serve you. ... everything we do is to please you!
Its the same in Washington, or could be. Elected officials are confident that, as incumbents, they can bicker while the countrys problems intensify and pay no penalty. But if voters are unhappy really unhappy the politicians will be too. Only if they feel unified heat, though, the way the NFL did.
The NFL knew it had a problem, but it took a high-profile crisis to prompt action. How often have we seen that? Neighbors knew they needed a sidewalk on Tyvola Road, but it took the tragic deaths of two children for the city to find money to build one. New Orleans knew its levees werent as strong as they needed to be. But it took Katrina blowing through before they were fixed.
Whats next? Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson were in Winston-Salem last week, warning, again, that the national debt is a cancer that will destroy the country from within. Can we all raise hell about that?