References to economic theory and European history are not normally heard during NFL broadcasts but Steve Young dropped both in eviscerating the NFL for its use of overmatched replacement officials. Sitting behind the desk for the ESPN postgame show after the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Denver Broncos on "Monday Night Football," the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback spoke with passion on the stalemate between the NFL and the officials.
Flexing some of the knowledge that he likely picked up while earning his B.S. in economics and international relations and later his law degree from Brigham Young University, the Hall of Famer flatly told viewers that the NFL doesn't care how badly the replacements perform.
"There's a lot of people in the league that would rather break the [referees'] union. There's a lot of people who don't feel like officiating is on-field personnel. They feel like it is a commodity," said Young, just warming up. "But more importantly, everything about the NFL now is inelastic for demand. There's nothing that they can do to hurt the demand for the game. So, the bottom line is they don't care."
For those not brushed up on economic theory, Young is basically saying that the NFL knows fans will watch no matter how much the product suffers from poor officiating. Knowing that, they have no reason to sacrifice at all to reach a deal with the officials. As Young sees it, the NFL is not even concerned that the ineptitude of these replacement officials presents a danger to the players.
"Player safety doesn't matter in this case," Young continued. "Bring Division III officials? Doesn't matter. Because in the end you're still going to watch the game. We're going to all complain and moan and gripe and say it has all these problems. And all the coaches will say it. All the players will say it. But it doesn't matter."
In order to sum up what he sees as the NFL's view of both its employees and consumers, Young invoked the out-of-touch (and eventually off-with-her-head..) suggestion attributed to Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.
"So just go ahead, gripe all you want," Young said, as he worked toward a closing flourish in which he seemed to be speaking as if he were NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "I'm going to rest. Let them eat cake."