Rules of any kind have a clearly defined purpose, and if there was a justifiable reason to regularly turn your eyes in a different direction when a rule is violated, then it simply wouldn’t exist anymore. It would vanish, and become obsolete.
That’s a general rule about rules. But the truth is that common sense can often trump a lot of rules. And that’s why a replacement referee’s participation in a very organized and very well-known poker event five years ago shouldn’t matter. At all.
Yet it matters so very much to Mike Pereira, the former official and vice president of officiating. Although there’s an air of nonchalance about his remarks to Pro Football Talk regarding Shannon Eastin’s participation in the World Series of Poker in 2007, the point wouldn’t have been raised if it wasn’t a piece of ammo in the increasingly public fight between the NFL and its regular officials who are still locked out and awaiting a new CBA.
Eastin will become the first woman to officiate an NFL game tonight when she patrols the field for the Packers-Chargers preseason game. She’ll receive criticism, and maybe she’ll be heckled and ridiculed after what’s perceived as a blown call. So she’ll be exactly like every other referee, which is her right regardless of her gender, and regardless of what manly men think of her presence on a football field (but, but, but…SHE HAS BOOBS! HERP DERP).
Pereira’s salvo is fired from a different direction, though, and he wants us to know that under normal circumstances when the league is using its normal hiring practices, Eastin’s participation in the 2007 WSOP would have eliminated her from consideration.
Tell us more, Mike Florio:
Pereira, who now serves as the rules analyst for the NFL on FOX, tells PFT that the normal screening procedures would have resulted in Eastin being rejected.
“Gambling is a no-no, period, when it reaches this level,” Pereira said. “This is not a friendly golf wager or a group of guys playing poker at home. If, in the normal background check process, this level of gambling was uncovered, the person would never have been hired.”
Surely Pereira’s claim is correct, because, well, he would know. But his words need to be viewed through the lens of bias they deserve. His past employment (he’s now a Fox analyst) strongly affiliates him with the current officials, and his words reflect a clear stance in the ongoing labor impasse.
But really, Pereira’s reading of the NFL guidebook for hiring officials is of lesser importance than the motivation behind his statement. If Eastin makes a mistake tonight, it won’t be because she’s officiating an NFL game for the first time, and it won’t be because she’s a referee and making mistakes is something refs do regularly at any level. It’ll be because the seed for the public perception that she can’t run with the big boys has been planted deeper by the assertion that her participation in a poker tournament years ago has any relevance whatsoever.
Let the replacement refs work games, and judge them by their work. If they suck, criticize them, and if they’re especially horrid, Pereira and others can keep telling the league that every preseason game played with replacement officials is putting the players in danger.
But don’t manufacture a moral judgement where none exists.
Pic via ESPN