Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 9/27/12

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell watches teams warm up prior to the start of Super Bowl XLIV between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
As real referees return to handle pressing matters like properly calling interceptions and field goals in Baltimore, I am wondering what, if anything, we learned from this fiasco. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is a soul-less suit? Owners are greedy? Refs are important? Real change begins with televised schadenfreude and Twitter? Because if the only takeaway is specific to officials and officiating, we missed the point altogether. What this referee debacle provides is a reminder of the high cost of low price, and if we are smart we will listen and apply to our daily lives. The bottom line should not always be the deciding factor. Some things are worth paying more for, and integrity is one of those things. We have the power, and responsibility, to demand quality. Yet the Roger anger feels hypocritical when you realize how many of us are Rogers -- buying the cheapest and never bothering to look at how costs were kept down, settling for least qualified without thinking of long-term consequences, not putting our money toward what we say matters most to us. In the case of the NFL, what its leaders always said mattered most was protecting the shield. Zero tolerance for anybody who tore at the integrity of the game, or so went Roger's sermonizing as he punished Mike Vick and The BountyGate Crew, et al. How he really felt, how owners authorized him to act, was antithetical to this. They refused to put their money -- fully funding a pension, pay raises -- to what they said mattered most until absolutely forced into doing so by a picture of one official signaling touchdown and another signaling touchback and Green Bay losing a game it should have won because of this folly. As I have thought about this moment, I have taken to wondering what if all of our low-cost choices were provided to us in that stark of contrast. What if we saw bad teachers, live on TV, in real time, screwing up outcomes? As it stands now, we do not see the impact until much later in the form of the dropout, the undereducated, the unemployable, the jail sentence, the next generation. I am neither pro nor anti-union. Nor is this in any way an endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union in their recently settled throwdown about pay and job security. As a rule, I admire teachers, distrust teachers' unions and generally see the tragic state of public schools in this country as an indictment of us all. Yet I saw a tweet Thursday that had me thinking: "Seems to speak volumes that Americans recognize the value of union solidarity in NFL officiating, but not among, say, schoolteachers." What we should learn from this NFL referee fiasco is not about the value, or lack thereof of unions, but rather how all of us get exactly what we pay for. There is almost always a price associated with cheaper -- an imported job, a job done less well, a loss on Monday Night Football in Seattle that may eventually impact playoffs and careers. "It was a noble experiment, but I think ultimately a failed experiment, from what we've seen," Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe said. "It'll be good not to have to worry about that when we're on the field. It's good that it won't be a distraction anymore." The difference with the NFL is, at least, it was willing to admit it. It took the NFL three weeks and too many embarrassing calls and games and statements to count, but Roger and the owners finally realized (or were forced to realize) there is value in expertise. In this age of always searching for cheaper, we forget this. We forget that paying a little more for a job done right, for our neighbor to have a job, for excellence is worth it. We forget integrity of your brand, or lack thereof, has value. Were we reminded of this, of its everyday applications, by this NFL ref debacle? Highly unlikely. This became all about Roger. The other reality is the NFL refs were simply lucky. They were handed a blunder by their cheaper replacements that forced us to recognize the high price of low cost and, as a result, recognize their value and the value of paying for it. And there is a lesson in there, if we only will listen.
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