Well, we all saw last night's debacle. I'm not going to blame refs for a Patriots loss. Because the refs sucked both ways. The main point is, they suck in general.
My favorite Ref Lockout moment was when the officials called a timeout to measure a ball that was over a yard from the 1st down line. The time it took to do so allowed John Harbaugh's staff ample time to view every single replay and then decide to challenge the spot of the ball.
Of course, the replacement refs got the spot horribly wrong to begin with. Harbaugh was right and the spot was wrong. Qualified officials wouldn't have made the mistake that started all this.
I understand the NFL's position in this dispute. We'll all watch the NFL next week, even though the refs suck and might be affecting the game. So if the NFL isn't losing money, why should it pay money to retain properly trained officials?
The NFL might not be losing money, but these games are losing legitimacy.
And at some point, the loss of legitimacy will affect the number of people watching the sport. See: Black Sox Scandal in 1919. It might take a long time, but it will happen. In 1919 baseball was as popular in this country as football is now. And it was facing a legitimacy crisis because some Chicago White Sox players took money to throw the World Series. Baseball was king but even it was threatened by a loss of legitimacy.
And how long can owners of Super Bowl contenders tolerate the shoddiness of officiating? Bill Belichick has already grabbed an official and will likely be (justifiably so) disciplined for it. How long until Robert Kraft lobbies for a settlement with refs to avoid further rankling?
I have never seen Bill Belichick so enraged as he was during that game last night.
Oh and don't forget these games are taking longer, and that's a problem for TV networks and their ratings. So these poor officials might be having a financial impact on the game after all.
The ultimate consideration for me is legitimacy. So many Patriots fans will be griping about the refs this week. I disagree with them and think the Pats are the most responsible for their defeat, but the lack of legitimate refs has resulted in the lack of legitimate wins. So whoever does well this season won't receive proper and just praise, because people will blame the low-rent refs for dictating who won and who lost in the 2012 NFL.