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Battle Red Bag Vol. 18: Out Of Options

Referee crisis 2012 was averted. What were they really trying to prevent?

Doug Pensinger - Getty Images


It doesn't take an economist to tell you that the NFL had no monetary incentive to give in to the demands of the NFL Referees' Association. Nothing had yet to occur that meaningfully changed the equation, and that includes this past Monday's debacle during the Seahawks-Packers game. The NFL has your eyes, your ears, and, by extension, your money. They have become a bottom-line business run by hard-liners who would rather see their net worth go up, in the words of Peter Gibbons, a tenth of a percentage point, than fix an injustice that has left their league borderline unwatchable for relative peanuts.

However, even the NFL has its limits. And after Monday, the pressure going forward was not that the scab refs would continue to blow easy calls. It was not the media. It was a replay of this:

Remember this game? If not, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the situation. No scab refs, limited PSLs ... the NFL was a big deal, of course, but it didn't have the monumental grasp on the American psyche that it does today. Today's modern sports fan has to deal with a lot of stupid shit. A lot of it. Crazy food prices, parking, relocation threats, and so on. The way the owners have decided to utilize their product is something that can embitter many individuals, especially once they down five beers.

Mob mentality rules once you get into the stands. What would have happened if the Green Bay Packers had a scab official make a terrible call against them Sunday against the Saints? Maybe two or three fans decide to go here again? I am not advocating violence, or soccer riots, but that seems to me to be the next logical step in the hypothetical progression. Would the NFL have deserved it? Probably. They have focused entirely on the growth of their wallets rather than providing the best experience they can. They have alienated people who put plenty of money into their product and pocket. They needed to be better than this.

To be honest, this has been a week of changes that I, the human being, have had little control over. I ordered a new phone over the internet, typed in my new address, and hit send. AT&T decided to have my phone shipped to my old address. FedEx decided that despite having filed a change of address form, they didn't need to trot it down to my new address. After an hour on the phone with them, they suggested I talk to AT&T, and after two hours on the phone with AT&T, they suggested that I talk to FedEx. Apparently, there is no way to change an address on a package once it has already been shipped. On either side. When it was all said and done, I had to take roughly six hours out of my busy schedule to right a wrong that was inflicted on me. For something that could have been fixed in minutes, with a sticker.

All I am saying is: When you create a world where people are treated like an accessory to everything they desire (or in some cases need), don't be surprised when they walk off with a couple of middle fingers in the air for the next thing that can deliver what I'm looking for at a cheaper price. Corporations love to preach about loyalty, customer service, and the quality of their product. The NFL is no different. But it's impossible to create loyalty when every move you make tells your customers that they should also be searching for the best deal. That's why, had the lockout not been lifted, I would have joined Puck Daddy! Grantland's NBA staff! Japanese baseball! Go Hanshin!

Jonathan Fosburgh writes:

Internet dating was still not socially acceptable in 2003? That's news to me. I met my wife online in '97.

So I guess I need a real question, not the somewhat rhetorical one above. So, um, have you ever been the lucky 1 in x (where x => 1000) to suffer a rare complication as a result of medical treatment? (Why, yes, I am. This is quite the timely question.)

Gosh Jonathan, it's just all about you, isn't it?

I would guess that the tipping point of online dating becoming something socially acceptable would be closer to 2007, 2008, something around there. I'm sure it existed in 1997, because I know that none other than Mr. Houston Diehards himself met his lovely wife via the intertubes. But were you actually proud to tell your friends and family about it, or did you kind of mumble some lie about how you met at college? Anyway, I didn't mean to denigrate the institution; I just know that if I had told my dad that I was dating someone off the internet in 2003, he would have lost it.

I have lived a remarkably healthy life outside of one minor flaw: my skin. The only surgery I've ever had involved them knocking me out and removing an incredibly painful cyst from my underarm when I was in high school. It had gotten to the point where I couldn't even lift the thing without wincing. One week off school, and I had to wear this awkward blood pump when I returned for about two or three weeks. The only time a prescribed treatment didn't work for me was for my teenage acne, which was about as bad as my dermatologist had ever seen. We juggled treatments around for years, and I finally convinced them to let me take Accutane, which is now off the market. But it completely cleared me up at 20, and even the scars on my back have faded a bit.

Accutane, of course, was pulled because of inflammatory bowel disease claims, and it was widely considered to be a leading cause of depression as well. Looking forward to those!

FreedomRide writes:

Sex with your ex: convenient physical release or proof your life is a wasteland of futility and despair?

I'm convinced that 90% of the time, it's more about validation than anything. I try to take a little something away from every relationship I leave, if not more, and I think there are some things that people just need to hear or feel to believe that they are (good enough).

Right now, I'd definitely lean towards the latter. I'm a little more confident in myself, and as attractive as my exes are, the reasons that I left them (or vice versa) were valid. I don't feel like I have unfinished business. I haven't always thought that way, and in fact, probably only in the last six months have I really stopped looking for validation with my exes. Wasteland of despair is probably a bit harsh. But carrying on with the past is (obviously) pretty unhealthy mentally. When you make the decision that they are part of your past, you've got to hold on to it. Unless you're like 19 and don't know a thing about what you really want anyway.

UprootedTexan writes:

Who would you pick to win a steel cage death match: Golbez from Final Fantasy IV or Magus from Chrono Trigger? And why?

I love this question, but I have to think it'd be a no-contest Magus win. I think they'd be evenly matched fighters, but if you look at the respective stories, you have to come to the conclusion that Golbez is a weaker overall character. Magus got thrown into the void trying to save his sister from the all-mighty bringer of destruction, survived, and kept looking for her. Golbez got brainwashed by Zemus (major plothole alert) despite the fact that he'd never actually set foot on the moon until the very end of the game. If you can't even control the voices in your head, you're mentally weak. And if you consider The After Years to be canon, he pretty much gets kicked off the moon like a bitch. Say what you will about how (tacky, horrible, corny) the whole alien invasion canon is, but at least when things went bad on earth, they were able to hold their ground and keep their cities. Golbez watched his confidant and all his fellow Lunarians get snuffed out and couldn't do a damn thing about it.

So, I'll take Magus to decapitate Golbez via scythe in the third round. After a pebble tells Golbez he looks fat.

In a couple of weeks, I'll be going to Las Vegas and am not entirely sure what to do with myself there (aside from the obvious). Do you have any suggestions, or if you've never been there, what would you if you were there?

I have never been to Las Vegas either, but one place I've always wanted to see is the Pinball Museum. Apparently it's pretty cheap, and I do appreciate just about anything related to the history of gaming. And I'd also probably check out the Atomic Testing Museum. Then, you know, the usual. Hang out in a sports book all day and wonder about the fate of the human race.

And here's the deep and meaningful question: Which would you say is better: Having a job that you like but isn't what you spent years training for, or trying to land the job you trained for but, in the meantime, working jobs you really, really hate?

I would say that question fails to hit the real aim it is seeking. There are two schools of thought in my head on jobs. One, which is the path I followed and would probably not do again, is just to follow your passion and kind of see where it takes you. Really though, I think 90% of people aren't going to find that mythical beast. I know that while I love my job and enjoy it, it can definitely feel overbearing at times. This idea (my idea) that you always have to be on, always ready to help ... I mean, a guy needs some down time.

I guess the more I've thought about it, the more I think that the perfect job for you is something that fits your lifestyle choices. Do you want to live at home? Do you need to feel like you've worked really hard and accomplished something to be satisfied? Vacations? Traveling? Hours? I think the idea of finding the best job for you starts with finding out what actually works best with the kind of person you are. And if that's something you're trained for, great. If it's not, then you've put in a lot of time and effort to find out something new about yourself. Don't take it as a failure. And really, if you get good at something, you become passionate about it anyway. You'll want to see it done to the highest standard you can think of.

WakePhil writes:

I just got to thinking about what I'd want from the afterlife if it existed and existed forever.

If it could be made so that I could spend every day in some tropical location, fishing, drinking on the beach, sharing that with all the friends and family you like, no hangovers, and it never gets old...obviously that's pretty cool, but boring for this hypothetical exercise. Its more interesting trying to think of what you'd want to keep you interested for eternity, assuming the same attention span you have now.

What I'd want to see is a detail log of everything I've done in my life with stats, random facts, etc. For example, I'd want to see a graph of all the women I've fantasized about, how often, and by age (I have a feeling this would be a hilarious timeline). Detailed statistics of all the traveling I've done, or stats from athletic acheivements (down to pick up basketball games and the like).

I suspect that could keep me busy for awhile, but I think the next feature could keep me busy for eternity. I would want to be able to tweak key decisions and see how my life would have played out differently, or tweak totally inconsequential decisions and see what happens.

Even cooler if you had access to this information for everyone. Follow around historical figures and tweak stuff. Kill Hitler or kill Newton just to see what happens. Find the right series of events that gets you Allison Brie. Seems like it would be the biggest time waster ever.

Anyway, couple questions:

1) What would you want to see with that much information on your life?
2) If you could go back and tweak one moment in history, what would it be?

1) To be honest, I just don't think my life is fascinating enough to be chronicled statistically in an interesting manner. I mean, I guess it'd be funny to see how many times I fapped to Baby Spice as compared to how many times I fapped to high school crush (name changed) Allie Rodriguez. I guess it'd be interesting to know who had a thing for me that I never suspected, or see what kind of connections I made that I never did anything with. But really, if I had to pick one statistical thing to know about, it'd be more about the people around me. Especially seeing some of the real motivations behind things like my parents getting divorced, or other stuff that happened when I was too young to really comprehend or accept it. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about people around me rather than myself, I guess is the main takeaway here.

(By the way, the idea of an afterlife where you eventually run out of things to learn or do really depresses me. Go Team Re-Incarnation!)

2) Since I think the spirit of this question is "in fun" rather than a preventative measure or something, I'd prevent the ancient Egyptian dynasties from getting overthrown by the Greeks. Think about how much further along we could be with the Library of Alexandria. Are we all worshipping Ra today? How many pyramids are there? Do the Egyptians become imperialistic? How do they deal with later civilizations? How does Africa as a whole look? There are so many different potential spins that could happen here. So I think it'd be fun to see how the planet would look today if the Egyptians had kept top civilization billing for even a few hundred more years.

Capt. Ron writes:

What is your favorite game day food before, during or just after a Texans game?

I always have a problem with favorite food questions. I think it's probably because that area of my life is pretty underdeveloped; I'm a convenience eater.

But, since I'm on the spot here ... I am a sucker for ribs, especially with sweet sauces. I think last year on Sundays, I spent about half of them ordering Star Pizza and about half of them going out for ribs. Of course, I have to work on game day, so it's become a different thing for me altogether. All I do is block out the Texans hours and try to relax while that's happening.

DTango writes:

Rivers, first and foremost thanks for taking this segment of the blog. And sorry about "Brianna".

I think most of us will agree that to spite some sort of odd cervical spine fusion issue Kareem Jackson has, he's a great run support guy and has solid tackling skills. If I recall correctly back in the Capers' era we saw a corner blitz or two occasionally. I could be wrong in this. Texans football up till now has generally led me to a strong buzz by about 10:30 AM on Sundays. Why is it that we don't see this under the Kubes/Phillips system? I just kinda think #25 would be great in a corner blitz scenario.


No need to apologize. I just thought of it as a funny thing to share.

Short answer: Because the front seven does almost all the rushing in Wade's system.

Long answer: In the base 5-2 sets that Wade runs, you've got five guys on the line and the game Wade is playing is "which of them are coming?" More importantly, because there are five guys (essentially) lined up on the line of scrimmage, having to cover a zone for a cornerback blitz out of the base set would be asking a whole lot of either Connor Barwin or Brooks Reed. They'd have to do a lot of backpedaling, and then they'd have to read the route. And really, cornerback blitzes are not a very common thing in most NFL defenses today. The only one I'd say that is "known" for it is Baltimore. Capers still does plenty of it in Green Bay, but he also runs a 2-4-5, which gives him more linebackers off the line to cover the blitz with.

In the dime set, I think you may see a cornerback blitz or two, but my read is that Kareem is not appreciably a better blitzer than Brice McCain, Quintin Demps, or Glover Quin. The way you've put it into your head, blitzing is about tackling and bringing someone down, but on a surprise blitz, the element that matters more than anything is pure speed. I don't think anyone could admit that Kareem is a good fit for that with a straight face.

HoustonTransplant writes:

During the top players of 2012, Arian Foster came in at 25 and Jacoby Jones spoke about him. During his testimony, he said that his 78 yard touchdown against Tampa was the longest pass play for a touchdown in franchise history. I don't think this is true. I could have swore that Andre got an 80 yard touchdown in the first play from scrimmage against the Seahawks. This has bothered me, but not enough to actually do any research. So is his statement true?

This is my Let Me Google That For You Question of the Week.

Anyway, that play you are thinking of, against the Seahawks in 2009, was a 66-yard touchdown. Andre Johnson's longest touchdown of his career came in 2007, when the Texans spanked the Chiefs 20-3 in the opener and Johnson hooked up with Matt Schaub for 77 yards.

Pro-football-reference lists the longest pass in franchise history as an 81-yarder to Corey Bradford, but (as MDC has pointed out), that was not for a touchdown. The actual record holder is none other than ... Jacoby Jones. In the same game. I don't know if he was trying to be coy or something, but he actually lead off the game with his own 80-yard play-action bomb. Then again, it's not like Jacoby has never made a mistake.

nolander writes:

why does this photo of schuab haunt my dreams

Probably because it's not anatomically correct: it looks like his full ear is still up. I know, my eye for detail haunts me sometimes too.

jeffersonscottsworth writes:

So what should I name my dog? Just kidding. If J.J. watt was a dog? What kind of dog would be be? And why do you come to that conclusion?

If J.J. Watt were a dog, he would be Clifford. I come to that conclusion because he is physically imposing and I'm pretty sure he could stomp houses if he felt like it, but he's also too much of a gentleman to actually do that. He settles for offensive linemen. And sometimes, when he gets bored, he lets them win a play too. Don't want the guy to have a complex when he gets older.

Benjamin Hamel writes:

Justin Forsett hit the hole so fast in the 4th quarter last week that I honestly thought the earth might start spinning backwards reversing time and taking all of us back a full play and a half. Which got me thinking, if you could travel back in time, and either grab one Texans player from years past or change one front office decision who/what would it be? I'm inclined to go with Aaron Glenn as a past player just because he helped us beat the cowboys and made the Pro Bowl on an expansion team. As far as changing a decision, drafting Patrick Willis instead of Amobi Okoye seems like a slam dunk, that or maybe hanging on to Jason Babin. Also don't forget to give Mike Reinfeldt a hug after he signs the Chris Johnson deal.

Oh, I'd definitely undo the Amobi Okoye decision, but you've got the wrong guy. I'm picking Darrelle Revis instead. Not only does that mean we'd have (up until this year) one of the only cornerbacks in the NFL that can play without safety help, it also means that we wouldn't have been forced to waste a first-round pick on Kareem Jackson. And I say this as someone who thinks that picking Okoye made all the logical sense in the world. That was not a bad pick at the time. But since you are giving me 20/20 hindsight, I think that's an obvious one, and one that would really have shifted all the fortunes of the franchise. I mean there are certainly players that would have been much smarter to grab in the earlier drafts (Julius Peppers, for one), but undoing one poor selection from the stalwart Charley Casserly era would be like placing your Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card in a Coke-stained nine-card plastic sheet, and letting it share the slot with Andy Sheets. It's spitting into the wind.