Trust me, NFL fans, I feel you.
The replacement referees are no longer funny. The calls matter and have begun to swing the flow of real games, for better or worse—usually worse.
And I seriously doubt Roger Goodell and the National Football League give two figs.
Peyton Manning's return to football last night had the highest rating for any prime-time regular-season game on NBC. What did advertisers pay for 30-second spots during that program? Around $545,000, according to AdWeek.
Everyone's making money and will continue to make money, regardless of who the officials are or how badly they call the games.
Because you and I will watch. It's a drug; we can't get enough NFL football, and the league knows it.
The players had some leverage during their lockout, simply because fans still identify with players, albeit not nearly as much as they did prior to the league's move toward parity. Fans like to watch star players make big plays.
The refs? What leverage do they have?
We've seen bumbling replacement officials for more than a month now, and no one that I know of turned off their television sets Sunday. Sports bars were still packed. Beer and wings were still sold.
Money, money, money. Plenty for everyone—including the regular referees, if they want to wake up and understand their place in all of this.
How many Ed Hochuli jerseys do you own? When was the last time you bought a Jeff Triplette bobblehead doll?
Will the regular refs return this season?
The bad calls will continue, mistakes will continue to be made, and the NFL won't bat an eyelid. I'm not saying it's right, though I do tend to think the "Get the regular refs back, no matter what!" crowd is off its collective rocker.
NFL owners didn't become NFL owners by caving when they have the hammer, which they most certainly do now.
The sticking points between the two parties are well documented, so I'll just say this: The NFL is right to draw a line in the sand regarding its desire to change how the pensions are administered for officials, who are part-time employees.
And the refs won't budge on the pension issue, which is their right.
In the meantime, the NFL will continue on with the replacement officials—and continue making gobs of money.