Football, Labor / Employment

Sports Law, Spaw, Lorts: Ed Hochuli Edition

Ed. note: This new column is about sports and the law. You can read the introductory installment here.

Do you remember what you wrote on your law school application essay? I do. Since I knew (and know) next-to-nothing about the law, I chose to focus the theme of my essay on issues of justice and how my childhood and young adulthood had been shaped by a sort of visceral response to injustice that practically forced my hand. That literally compelled me to learn more about the law so that I could fight injustice like some fey Batman, ridding the world of evil. I must have spent days puzzling over what in my life’s experience could be offered up as proof of my worthiness to study the law. Truthfully, I couldn’t think of a single thing in my childhood that was weighty enough for this most holy of callings. A midwestern, middle class, middle-of-the-pack upbringing had left me woefully unprepared for this self-selected mission.

And so it was that a white kid from Kansas decided to say that he was drawn to the law because of the Spike Lee joint, Do the Right Thing. I might have even mentioned that I cried when Radio Raheem was murdered by New York City cops. That the feeling I had while watching a movie as a child was a clarion call to justice. That the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards my admittance to a T14 law school.

This is all to say that several years from now, some idiot very much like your humble correspondent might mention the injustice of the Seattle Seahawks victory Monday over the Green Bay Packers as the moment when he decided to go to law school.

Let’s talk sports, referees, and four-fingered rings that say LOVE and HATE.


Is that headline too much? The internet doesn’t think so and neither should you. The whole damned country was alive with the sound of hyperventilating anger after Monday’s debacle in Seattle. After almost three weeks in which the NFL was able to equivocate and stall, Goodell’s goofy gambit blew up in everyone’s faces as the replacement refs managed to prove only that quality referees are truly a scarce commodity.

This was only the latest in a whole gaggle of labor disputes that have taken over the sports page (sports page… how quaint) of late. Staci pointed out yesterday how a dispute such as this inevitably drags in high-powered law firms to negotiate the terms of armistice. The referees were represented by Arnold Newbold Winter & Jackson, while the NFL was represented by a firm I’ve heard of before. Because the NFL has more money than God and enough sense to spend it on a high-powered law firm like Proskauer Rose.

As I made abundantly clear in my introduction, issues of law pale like a freckle-faced Irishman in comparison to the important issue of justice. I’m clearly tipping my hand by calling the NFL morally bankrupt and branding the whole fiasco Goodell’s Goofy Gambit, but I’ve already committed to this disingenuous question that feigns impartiality, so here goes. Was the NFL’s lockout of its referees based on some issue of fairness more important than the issues of pension and pay? No. Here’s Tommy Craggs:

The NFL locked out its referees in the name of taking away their pensions. It was not that the pensions were a threat to the long-term fiscal survival of the league—again and again, we were reminded that the sums involved were pocket change in a growing, multibillion-dollar enterprise. It was that the pensions existed at all. The mere existence of a defined-benefit retirement plan offended an ownership class that had looked around and seen that every other business owner in America had already broken that particular contract. The referees’ old deal was deemed insufficiently hard-edged or market-driven. That was the most vulgar thing about the lockout. It was … aesthetic.

“We lost that f**king game because Roger Goodell’s f**king asthmatic?!?!”– A really stupid Packers fan.

Now, lest you think that there is no legal angle to this story other than the pedestrian “law firm involved in labor dispute,” I encourage you to read the headline again. This story isn’t just about the NFL referees getting the band back together. Hell, it’s not even mostly about that. This story is about a mild-mannered law firm partner:

Who doubles as a walking, talking (sooo much talking) gun show on weekends:

Ed Hochuli is perhaps the most famous football referee in America. His popularity dwarfs that of some other referee I can’t name because who the hell knows the name of referees. His biceps may be his calling card, but it’s his consummate professionalism that has earned the Phoenix attorney encomiums like the following from our favorite pumpkin-headed NFL writer, Peter King:

Every Tuesday night, the veteran official with the Popeye arms has been holding rules-related conference calls with all officials. Average attendance on the calls, I’m told, is between 90 and 110 per week. Hochuli, the officiating sources says, gives all officials a test each week, similar to one they might get from the NFL during a regular week of preparations, and then goes over the results on the phone with the officials.

“That’s one of the reasons why the officials will be up to date and ready to go,” the officiating source said. “Ed grabbed the bull by the horns and made sure that whenever this thing ended, the regular officials would be ready to go back to work immediately.”

Ed grabbed the bull by the horns. And to think that Above the Law augured such a feat more than five years ago, when Laurie Lin authored the authoritative post on the man, titled Ed Hochuli: Football’s Fabulously Fit Finder of Fact. Fancy Foreshadowing!


* Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley has asked to be placed in a diversion program for his DUI charge. I graduated from a diversion program (and Handsome Boy Modeling School) and I can safely say that there is nothing easy about such a program. They tolerate no sleeping. None.

* Falcons defense end John Abraham was arrested on Monday for obstructing police and firefighters. Reached for comment, Smokey Bear said “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Which is all that asshole ever says and, besides, it doesn’t really apply here so I’m not sure why Smokey Bear was reached for comment in the first place.

* An arrest warrant was issued for Marcus Vick this week for failing to appear in court for a charge of driving on a suspended license. Marcus never had the dog-murdering talents of his older brother.

______ TIME

I’m out of Time ideas and so, for this week, have tried to place Time Out of Mind. These are Modern Times, dear reader. Times…they are in fact a-changin’. Next week, I’m Pledging My Time to come up with something to fill this space. Maybe I’ll think of something this weekend, but Tomorrow is a Long Time… away.

The NFL sacrificed three weeks of games on the altar of ideological purity [Slate]
Deal still not imminent, but Hochuli has refs ready when time comes [CNNSI]
Ed Hochuli: Football’s Fabulously Fit Finder of Fact [Above the Law]
Do the Right Thing [imdb]
Bob Dylan [wikipedia]

(hidden for your protection)

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