Monday night's referee train wreck won't change anything.
While tens of millions of fans likely turned off their televisions with a bitter taste in their mouths, it's also probably true that they saw that beautiful silver lining:
There's absolutely, positively, undoubtedly no way the NFL can continue to put the replacement referees on the field.
Not so fast.
Despite the amount of unbelievable penalty calls and no-calls, despite the extra timeouts and challenges, despite an instant classic between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers being ruined by buffoons, we're going to keep watching.
And therein lies the problem.
We will continue to complain. We will continue to rip our hair out. We will continue to take to Twitter to scream useless profanities at Roger Goodell. But worst of all, we will continue to watch the games.
At the end of the day, that's all the NFL cares about.
It's a completely demoralizing thought that Goodell, the owners and all of the higher-ups care more about the money they bring in than the product on the field, but it's the stone-cold truth.
The NFL could consist of a bunch of pandas running around a field, but if we had those pandas on our fantasy teams, if we bet on those pandas and if those pandas represented our beloved city, we would watch.
It's no longer a game. It's entertainment. It's a business.
Steve Young, who knows a little bit about the NFL, summed it up pretty well during Monday night's postgame discussion (via Matt Brooks of The Washington Post).
“There is nothing they can do to hurt the demand of the game,” Young said. “So the bottom line is they don’t care. Player safety doesn’t matter in this case. Bring Division III officials? Doesn’t matter. Because in the end you’re still going to watch the game.”
When the demand is so ridiculously high, who cares about the quality of the product, right, NFL?
Walter White wouldn't stand for this.
According to The Washington Post's Mark Maske, the major sticking point in the ongoing negotiations between the NFL and the real referees has to do with a pension fund, which, by all accounts, is an absolutely minuscule detail:
One person familiar with the talks said pensions for the referees have become the major sticking point in the negotiations. The league considers the pensions being sought by the referees association too generous, several people with knowledge of the talks said. One person said the referees’ pension proposal calls for an annual league contribution of $38,500 per official.
You read that right. The main reason we don't have real zebras on the field is because the NFL is unwilling to fork over $38,500 for each official.
When do you think the real refs will return?
If the NFL hasn't budged on that already, it's hard to imagine the most recent of countless, poorly reffed games forcing the issue. Monday night's game, as hard as it is to believe, wasn't much worse than any of the previous three weeks. This time around, however, the predictable ugly calls just happened to coincide with atrocious timing.
Nothing is going to change.
So, while you may think that one of the worst officiated games in NFL history will give the real referees all the negotiating power, think again. In reality, Monday night's debacle is just going to continue to increase ratings. People like to watch train wrecks.
And that's exactly what the NFL wants.