I've had a little while to cool off now following last night's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, a game that has been widely panned as the worst officiated game in the history of the league. And while I didn't blame the refs for the Patriots loss then, and I'm not blaming them now, I definitely had my share of things to say about the way that game was called and what kind of impact it had on both teams.
I have been thinking about it fairly extensively all day today, and I have decided that this will be the last time anyone hears me say anything about the replacement refs. Yes, they are awful. Yes, they are destroying the integrity of the game. And while no team has lost yet as a direct result of one of their many, many bad calls, it's just a matter of time before that happens. It isn't their fault at all; they are doing the best job that they can do. They just simply aren't qualified to call professional football games. I know how to change a tire and check the oil on a car; that doesn't mean I'm a qualified mechanic. Regardless, I can't in good conscience sit here and continue to rip on the refs and demand that the NFL do something about getting the regular officials back.
Because honestly, in way, I'm just as responsible for keeping these clowns employed as Roger Goodell is.
I may not have the authority that Goodell has, and I obviously can't physically get the deal done myself. I'm not in that position of power. But you know what? I'm a consumer. I'm a fan of the game. And I am part of the demographic that the league actively markets towards. I, along with millions of other people, pay the money that keeps the NFL in business. And I'm still watching.
I still tune in every single week. I still buy tickets to games. I still purchase the merchandise. And I will still be doing all of these things even if the replacement refs officiate the entire season and the crap that we've all been watching becomes the new normal in the NFL. I'm not alone either; on the contrary, the NFL is as popular now as it has ever been as millions upon millions of fans are doing the exact same thing that I am. I'd even still be watching games if the NFL had a bunch of escaped mental patients out there throwing flags in hospital gowns. The bottom line is that we can all complain until we're blue in the face about how the refs are ruining the game and how something needs to be done before the officiating causes irreparable harm, but obviously none of us are so appalled by what has been going on that we're going to stop giving the NFL our business.That's the only real leverage that we have - to simply stop watching - and none of us are going to do that. How fast would a deal get done if fans everywhere staged a boycott of an entire week's worth of games? How quickly would Goodell get the refs back on the field if advertisers pulled their sponsorship because television ratings plummet as viewers find better things to do with their Sundays? Ed Hochuli and his massive arms would be out flipping the coin this Thursday and we all know it.
But we also all know that there is simply no way that kind of solidarity and mass protest will happen. And because of that, the NFL hasn't lost one red cent because of this nonsense. The league is still making money hand over fist, and we are all going to keep watching every single week. Because of that, what is Goodell's real motivation to get a deal done? Why should he be in such a huge rush? How much does he actually care about the integrity of the game, based on the actions he has taken thus far during his tenure as Commissioner?
Maybe I'm wrong about this one, and before long fans will become sick of the product being placed before them. Maybe there are even some fans out there right now who are seriously contemplating watching something else on Sunday afternoons. And if you consider yourselves one of those fans, more power to you. But the truth of it is that those who will actually choose to stop watching are few and far between. The rest of us are just as excited as ever for Game Day to roll around. And while I'm becoming significantly less and less excited for football as the weeks roll on, I just can't stop watching - I'm in to deep. Thus, I don't really have any right to whine. And Roger Goodell doesn't really have any need to fold.
Few things irritate me more than people who complain about their problems but then take zero action to fix them, and I realized that by complaining about the replacement refs while continuing to consume all things NFL at my usual alarming rate, I may as well have just pitched a tent outside of Occupy 180 Park Avenue, bought a set of bongo drums, and stopped showering. So I've decided that I'm just going to keep my mouth shut about the refs from now on. No, I don't like it, but since I have absolutely zero intention of exercising my right as a free consumer to spend my time and money elsewhere, I really don't have any right to complain.
I'm sure that the referees will return at some point this season, and when they do, I'll be as happy as anybody. But until then, I'm just going to keep doing what I do best: watching the games alone and keeping my half-assed opinions to myself.