Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Replacement Refs Will Cost the NFL Money

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the NFL's replacement refs find a way to screw up a game even more.

The Packers should have won last night's game. There's no doubt about it. But a game-sealing interception by Green Bay was ruled a game-winning touchdown by Seattle.

These referees plainly suck. The argument has been that since they're not driving viewers away, there's no motivation for the NFL to give in to the unionized referees.

I'm not so sure that this premise is true. There may be an effect these refs are having on games that poses a financial threat to the NFL.

These games are taking longer, and they're progressing more slowly. These refs are taking extra long to confer and make decisions. They have to discuss with NFL officials what they can and can't review.

Long games aren't good for TV ratings. Especially the featured games on Sunday and Monday night. How many viewers do NBC and ESPN lose as these games crawl past midnight? How many fans fall asleep instead of watching the commercials which pay the NFL's bills?

Here's another argument. Even if the NFL isn't losing viewers due to the referees, are they gaining any?

What will we tell the British about our officials when the Patriots and Rams play in London in a few weeks? How do these debacles make the NFL more appealing to European fans? Roger Goodell and the NFL have been working hard to grow the game in international markets. But show the end of last night's game to some German guy watching football for the first time and try to explain to him why that was called a touchdown.

Why would any new fan want to watch a game being officiated by fourth-rate hacks who understand the rules less than the players and coaches they're officiating over? How can new fans truly get into a game if they don't understand what is and isn't a penalty?

It isn't just the game that's being ruined by this relatively insignificant labor dispute, it's the brand.

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