I don't expect the NFL owners to give an inch to their locked out referees. Still. Stubbornly.
And if they can get through the next few days, they'll have won again and they'll have to keep winning like this over the long-term. Which they appear quite ready to do, damn all outside criticism.
Because they're "The Shield" and everybody else isn't.
That's the way they'll frame this to themselves; that's how billionaires/sports-despots do this in the face of public outrage and common sense.
They don't budge. Because not budging shows (to themselves) that they're bigger than everything else.
If ever there was a time for Roger Goodell and his 32 bosses to start back-tracking in negotiations, of course it would be now, in the hours after last night's epic replacement referee meltdown on Monday Night Football.
You never like the phrase "integrity of the game" to be entirely and critically applicable to officiating, but it is now. The real referees don't get every call correct, but they wouldn't have screwed up as manically as those guys did last night.
It was inevitable -- the mistakes are obvious in every game and it is only getting worse, not better.
And still, I think the NFL was braced for something like this (if not quite on this scale) and part of its strategy was that 32 owners, acting as one, were bigger than any wave of bad publicity, talk-show anger and players' and coaches' lament.
OK, I think the owners grudgingly accept that the players are reasonably important. The owners wish they weren't, but $9B a year in revenues makes them feel better about giving the players some of it.
But the referees? They're not part of "The Shield," as Goodell & his bosses love to call it. The important thing is always the league. Which is them.
And not piddly disposable employees like the guys who officiate the games.
Really, the owners believe the only important elements are... the OWNERS. Now of course nobody buys a ticket or turns on the TV to watch an owner, but that's not how the owners think.
And against the power and arrogance of The Shield, really, what's the big deal about Golden Tate stealing the call in the end zone -- and two baffled referees letting him do it -- at Qwest Field?
It's important to note that yes, it's very possible the real referees have been asking for too much in their recent negotiations with the league.
But that's what you do in negotiations, right? Every position when you're up against The Shield is negotiable, as the players' stance was
And this time, the NFL decided not to negotiate. This time, the 32 owners decided to dig their heels in because they're The Shield and nobody else is.
The result: M.D. Jennings coming down with an interception that should've sealed Green Bay's victory and it ending up as a Seattle victory... after several horrendous calls in Seattle's favor to get to that point.
(Side note: Even though the final play went to a replay review, the replay booth can't overturn a ruling on possession of the ball in that case. That's an on-field judgment call.
(By logic it should've been overturned, but that was just because it was a terrible call. There's no process for appeal or overturning that awful call since it didn't involve the ball hitting the ground or a boundary line.)
Not shockingly, all those key calls were in favor of the home team. Bad refs always skew to the home crowd. Even some good ones do, so you know these guys are going to go homer at any important juncture.
The Shield knows this. If the 32 owners hunker down and get through today or tomorrow, they will win again and clap their shoulders, because they have an incredibly popular product and people will keep watching, whoever is refereeing.
The owners believe they're the ones who created this. Most of them didn't. They just bought their way into it, but now Jerry Jones, Jeff Lurie & Co. believe they're the game.
(And the Yorks and Mark Davis, too. Though I don't believe either local owner is much of a player in this situation.)
It's arrogance, stupidity and everything else you want to call it. It's The Shield.
Goodell will be remembered for this, no matter how hard the PR machine revs up to burnish his legacy, and you know that's already happening.
I do think this will be settled at some point. But I don't think this one play -- however instantly infamous -- will get the owners to buckle.
They're The Shield. To hell with everybody else.