The referees were pretty good—for scabs. We've all seen regular referees do a lot worse, anyway. But I was going to have to keep my attendance at the Oakland Raiders/Green Bay Packers game on the down-low until I could figure out my rationalization—the regular officials having been locked out by the NFL. On LaborDay weekend!
We'd been looking forward to the game for months. We had tickets. We had plane tickets. And it was my boyfriend-type-person Bob's birthday, and he was as happy as Huntington Beach City Councilman Dave Garofalo in a pile of bribes about seeing Packer god Brett Favre throw, and on and on. But those slim reasons would be about as useful as Supervisor Jim Silva when Commie Mom found out we were crossing the line. I just wasn't going to tell her.
But Bob is an idiot. We were on our way to the game, and I was chatting on the phone with Emma Goldman herself when Bob said sweetly, "Let me talk to your mom!" Chuckling, he asked her if she knew her daughter was crossing a picket line to see scab referees officiate. On Labor Day weekend! Somehow he thought that would be funny—probably because he's a big Republican muckety-muck, and organized labor is hilarious to them. The mascara running down my face as I morphed instantly into Bette Davis as Baby Jane while my mother tersely reminded me that I was a grape-eating, Vons-shopping, big-Republican-muckety-muck-dating hypocrite probably clued him in. (In my defense, I didn't buy grapes for months even after the 20-year boycott ended. And there never was a boycott against Vons. But according to my mother, serious people don't care if a boycott "ends" or "doesn't exist." She's tough.)
I wasn't going into it lightly; had there been an actual picket line, Bob would have been sitting in his MarkChmura jersey (he's the Packer with a predilection for baby sitters) all by himself, though that's a matter of aesthetics more than principle probably. And I checked into the refs' demands. The NFL was offering a 50 percent raise. Referees work five months per year, about 10 hours per week (and that's if they travel). And for that, a rookie official is already making 42 large. The NFL was offering 62 (again, for a rookie), to which the refs—all of whom in their regular lives are corporate bankers, VPs and commercial pilots—had turned up their noses like it was fruited Spam. And that pissed me off. I had tickets to see Rich Gannon, and these guys were gonna hold me hostage because they wanted $95,000 per year their first year out of the gate? For five months' work? On weekends? Do I make $95,000 per year? (Not including the value of the drinks I cadge?) Do you? Did the refs in question deny themselves grapes even once? What would Carlo Tresca say?
Nobody at Oakland's Network Associates Coliseum ("Meet me at the Net!") really seemed to care: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers marquee still shone next to the scoreboard; the Raiderettes still pranced. And the crowds still shook to the PA system's dirty, dirty rock & roll music—AC/DC, Motley Crue and more AC/DC—while Gannon and my new boy, MarquesTuiasosopo out of University of Washington, creamed the Packers 24-13. Even BobbyHoying, the second-string quarterback whom I may never forgive for his disastrous showing in last year's playoffs after The Cannon got laid out, didn't suck entirely, though he still hasn't seemed to realize you're supposed to throw the ball to someone; it doesn't count if you just throw it into the end zone by itself. It was a game filled with loud, happy drunks eating plates of garlic fries and handing one another joints, the kind of bread and circus with which Rome used to pacify its hordes. But men and women who labor strong all through the week, even those whose greatest on-the-job risk is carpal tunnel syndrome, need bread and circuses. There must be some fun to look forward to on our weekends—weekends, by the way, that exist thanks to the Wobblies and the Socialists and the anarcho-syndicalists.
There are no heroes here. The union is acting foolishly, the NFL is acting far worse, and I am in the strange position of not having the moral high ground from which to talk.
The sheer bad taste of a lockout on Labor Day weekend nullifies the natural advantage the NFL would have had by pointing out to the real working men—the Latino guys who were hammering outside my window at 7 on Labor Day morning for $5 per hour, for instance—how little they have in common with these refs, who most likely don't know their maids' names. And despite the silliness of the refs' demands, it was the NFL that broke off negotiations and locked out the officials, a fact I very conveniently didn't differentiate in my huff over the referees' tax bracket. My boss wants me to point out how merrily Communists stab one another in the back as a way to assuage my own sins. Forget Trotskyvs. Stalin; here in our own country, we had Big Bill Haywood and the Wobblies refusing to pony up support for Tresca and the Colorado miners. Even the anarchists refused to support their own Saccoand Vanzetti, letting the state have its sorry way with them to clear a few robberies. But while it's a fun exercise, it's as loudly diversionary (and even almost as intellectually dishonest) as the Republicans rioting and rattling on the windows outside the Miami-Dade counting rooms that led the Miami-Dade canvassing board—shockingly—to discontinue its vote count in January. But though I'm enduring the odd experience of feeling "guilt," I still can't spare a tear for the poor referees. My tears are already taken.