Sunday, September 30, 2012

Replacement Referees: A Common Foe

The Creation of a Common Foe in the NFL
          Recently, referees from the National Football League could not come to terms for a contract agreement with the League commissioner Roger Goodell. Surely you have all heard through some medium of the travesty that is the replacement referees. These unfortunate, but brave people became the most hated human beings in professional sports history in just a matter of weeks, when in reality, they were just trying to do their jobs, and in most cases performed quite adequately. Why then, were they hated so badly? This question leads into a rather interesting discussion over the rhetorical tactic of creating a common foe. The replacement NFL referees are a perfect example of a common foe.
            The extremist tactic of creating a common foe is widely used in all reaches of society, for a simple fact exists: people love to hate. In World War II the United States pulled itself out of an economic depression as it rallied against Hitler's armies. In 2001 the Bush administration used the face of Osama Bin Laden as motivation for Congress to approve a war in the Middle East. Beyond these examples lies many, many more just like them. This is due in large part to the makeup of the human brain. Harvard Professor of Psychology Daniel Gilbert claimed in a 2011 lecture that the human brain is chemically programmed to respond exponentially more actively to a threat that has a human face. He uses global warming saying that, "If global warming was led by short man with a large moustache then it would have been stopped years ago." Using this type of logic it is clear how powerful of a tactic the common foe can be.
            The replacement referees experienced all of this firsthand. Although a large question remains, "Who framed them as a foe, and for what purpose?" The purpose is unclear, but the media is undeniably responsible for painting the scabs as people to be loathed and hated. Jim Rome, an often out-of-line but always interesting sports radio host absolutely tore apart the replacement referees as early as pre-season week one. He included sound bytes on his radio show of the replacement referees misspeaking as they announced rulings. ESPN began showing replays of missed calls all over their popular programming, yet many of the missed calls would have been missed by any official. But because of this negative portrayal, people who had yet to even watch them officiate a game had the idea instilled in their brains that the replacement referees were a huge threat to the NFL. I believe that the media reported so frequently on the replacement refs not just because people like hearing about it, but because Goodell would not budge on the contract negotiations until America called for action.
            This call for action came on Monday September 24th. The Seattle Seahawks were hosting the Green Bay Packers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, arguably the NFL’s biggest stage. On the very final play of the game, the replacement officials completely botched a call that directly changed the outcome of the game. (This play can be seen in the video above.) That night, ESPN reported that the league office received 70,000 phone calls from NFL vans, criticizing the replacement officials and calling for Goodell to give in to the demands of the strinking referees. The next day, the strike was over.
            Undeniably America’s hatred towards the replacement refs yielded the results everyone sought. It is incredible how effective the tactic of creating a common foe was in this particular instance. The age old rhetoric tactic of creating a common foe showed once again how powerful it is. What is also interesting is how this human tendency for hatred is used as motivation for mindset not only in politics but also in many aspects of society. The referee strike of 2012 ultimately showed us that by making a common foe, things get done.

1 comment:

  1. Your article was definitely a true version of a common foe in today's world. As a person that doesn't watch an immense amount of football, it was even clear to me that the calls made in that game were very debatable and I completely agree with you that it definitely helped for football fans to make a common foe out of the replacement referees. In this instance, it definitely worked in favor of the fans. Altogether, very entertaining article!