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Monday night's NFL game ended with two officials giving conflicting signals. The ultimate call, giving the Seattle Seahawks the win, caused an uproar that may have hastened a settlement of the refs' lockout by the league.
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By Howard Owen
WHAT HAPPENS when
Look no farther than Monday Night Football and the National Football League's lockout of its officials.
Think all publicity is good publicity? Well, even people who don't know a football from a falafel were talking about the NFL last week, and it's doubtful that the brain trust was savoring the attention. Maybe that's why the league did a 40-yard-dash back to the bargaining table and reached an agreement with refs in relatively short order after Monday night's fiasco, which was just the coup de grâce, the exclamation point to three weeks of incompetency.
If you are constantly harping on preserving the integrity of "the product," you probably don't want people from here to Tibet shaking their heads and wondering where that game-deciding call came from.
The NFL is a business, and there's surely a business lesson in this.
The logic in locking out the officials was pretty clear. These guys want too much, and we're going to draw the line, show 'em who the king is.
Nobody, apparently, gave much thought to the quality thing. Somebody with an MBA thought it would be worth sacrificing a little integrity to improve the bottom line of a business that needs more revenue like Meryl Streep needs acting lessons.
Somebody didn't look at the real bottom line, the one that values the long-term image of a business over short-term gains.
Opting to go with small-college (or worse) refs to bust the officials' union is a close cousin to the mindset that leads a respected company with a solid base to start a franchising frenzy, slapping its brand on substandard stuff.
The thing about lockouts is, you can get away with them if you have the strong hand. If you've done the research and know your product won't be damaged by playing hardball with your employees, it will work. Nobody's saying you're a saint for doing it, but you haven't hurt the franchise.
But if you're holding a pair of deuces, and you haven't figured that out, you wind up looking silly, like those two officials simultaneously indicating "touchdown" and "touchback" Monday night.
Any intelligent business knows you sometimes have to buy or keep quality with cold, hard cash.
Don't save nickels putting an inferior part in the automobiles you're producing and wind up making headlines over recalls.
Don't put your coffee/chicken/burger franchises on every corner until you have no idea what's going on in many of them.
Don't put the brand of your big-time New York department store in every suburban mall.
And don't nickel-and-dime your way into a corner where you're putting a "product" before the American public that elicits rage and laughter rather than respect.
It just doesn't pay.
Business Editor Howard Owen writes this biweekly column on business and the economy. He can be reached at 540/374-5539 or howen@freelance star.com.