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The Digital Skeptic: NFL Referees Prove Better Pay Is Better for Investors

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I know, I know. We are supposed to root for management here in the investor luxury box. The grunts and smacks of capitalism's controlled mayhem are what create the improved productivity and jobs that put the wealth-creation points on the investor scoreboard.

And if a company fumbles and pays its workers more? Oh heavens ... that's 15 yards, a first down -- and a stiff fine from the investing league office.

But in these everything-we-know-is-wrong digital days, this grim rulebook no longer applies.

Last week, the National Football League ended its lockout of the NFL Referees Association by doing something not many other multibillion-dollar enterprises do: It coughed up major concessions to lowly part-time employees -- its refs.

Read it and weep, you people with jobs. The zebras stiff-armed some of our economy's most savage management linebackers, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Dallas' Jerry Jones. The refs gained an unprecedented 18% jump in pay, a throwback defined-benefit pension plan and -- it's almost impossible to believe in this slash-and-burn era -- real, full-time jobs for some refs.

And you know what? Not only was there no investor torrent of booing, but the National Football League has probably never been worth more -- making the business of football the poster child for valuing big enterprises in the information age.

Here's why:

The information slopping around inside big companies is just as meaningless as the information slopping around outside big companies.

Get over it, quants, not only is the information investors use to make investment decisions a commodity, but the information company managers use to manage their operations is a commodity. The mistake managers made is simple: Somewhere in the New York-based NFL league offices, information on a computer screen led managers to think that nothing would be simpler than swapping one employee for another. After all, thousands of top-quality officials manage thousands of top-quality games each year. The rules they enforce all flow openly across limitless digital devices. And really, how hard can it be to blow a whistle and yell "First down"?

But out here in reality, things turned out to be far more, well, real.  

No model could account for the utter contempt players showed for the new zebras or the nuances old refs such as Ed Hochuli had for keeping the game interesting for television. It took three weeks -- and the so-called Worst Call Ever on last Monday's Packers-Seahawks debacle -- for the league's owners to realize how wrong their models were.

But realize it they did. And the owners had no choice but to take a couple for the company.

A company that pays employees more is -- guess what? -- worth more.