Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/26/12

Now that the NFL is two days removed from the debacle that was the Seahawks victory over the Packers on a last second Hail Mary pass where the replacement referees incorrectly rewarded Seattle the game winning touchdown, maybe fans can look at this situation in a more rational way. Not likely.

For those of you that missed it, or have been under a rock since Monday evening, Seattle’s rookie Quarterback, Russell Wilson, threw up a prayer into the end zone with eight seconds left in the game trailing 12-7. Green Bay Safety M.D. Jennings had two hands on the ball grasping it to his chest while Seattle Receiver Golden Tate maybe had five fingers on the pigskin. Two replacement referees were on the scene, one ruled interception, the other touchdown.

Eventually, Tate wrestled the ball away from Jennings and the touchdown was rewarded to Seattle. The play was also reviewed, but the ruling stood giving the Seahawks a 14-12 win. The ultimate fan nightmare, a replacement referee deciding the outcome of a game, came true. Russell Wilson became the first quarterback to throw a game winning interception.

It is safe to say after three weeks of football, the replacement referees have failed. In nearly every game this season, there has been controversy with the referees, and it has progressively gotten worse. Last Monday, the refs lost control in the Broncos vs. Falcons game. This past Sunday night in Baltimore, the referees again made several controversial calls against both sides that changed the game. Not to mention during week two, the NFL nearly had a Saints fan referee a Saints game.

Then on the NFL’s biggest regular season stage, Monday Night Football, the replacement referees made one of the biggest blunders in NFL history. But fans should realize the biggest blunder of all: the owners do not care to fix it.

As retired Quarterback Steve Young has said on ESPN, the owners do not have to give in to the regular referee’s demands for more health benefits because the fans are still watching. The owners are not losing any money, so what leverage do the referees have?

And for that reason, the NFL is losing its credibility and falling to the level of the other three major sports leagues in the United States.

Ironically, the only team without an owner because it is owned by the public, is the Green Bay Packers. So the franchise is not just on the short end of this Monday Night Game, but in all the owner negotiations with the referees as well. They have no representative.

Fans will always argue which of the four major American sports is the best, but the NFL is definitely the best of the four leagues.

Through decades and decades of work, the NFL has built a very powerful brand. The fact that it is the easiest game to follow on television for the common fan, and teams have fewer games in the NFL than other leagues helps. It is much easier to sell out eight football games in small cities like Pittsburgh than 81 baseball games. Plus, every game is a network game, so television rights are equally shared. Then the NFL used new technologies like Direct TV and fantasy football more effectively than the other sports and further widened the gap between the NFL and the other leagues. But in just three weeks, the NFL has been ruining years of work.

The other three leagues are jokes compared to the NFL. The NBA has not called “travelling” in years not to mention all the players dress up like hipsters after games and host press conferences called “The Decision”. The NHL could lose its second season in less than a decade to another lockout. And what used to be called America’s pastime, baseball, the MLB has been tarnished by scandals of performance enhancing drugs. Occasionally, a player gets caught by the new system, but does anybody really truly believe it is working? There, I said what everyone is thinking.

These replacement referees have put the NFL into this joke category as it has hurt the integrity of the game. Even the LFL, that’s right, the Lingerie Football League, where women play football in their bras and garters, thinks poor referees hurt the integrity of the sport. Mitch Mortaza, commissioner of the LFL, fired a ref for poor performance; that referee was then hired by the NFL and is currently an alternate according to Yahoo Sports.

How can a referee who was not qualified to officiate a football game in a league that simply objectifies women be qualified for perhaps the best sports league in the world?

Mortaza not only argues that poor officiating hurts the integrity of the game but also increases the likelihood of players getting hurt.

“If it's opening up our players for potential injury, those things raise red flags here,” said Mortaza. “Is it hurting overall credibility? When either of those two things are compromised, it's time to start thinking about parting ways."

Even night talk show host Craig Ferguson got in on the joke bringing out a production assistant dressed up in a referee outfit. Ferguson asked why he was dressed like a referee and the young assistant said he was trying to earn some extra money. The crowd roared in laughter because that is what the NFL is now, a joke.

The NFL should be worried with the same injury risk that concerned the LFL. It is pretty clear, however, these replacement referees are here to stay. Some owners like Jerry Jones will not even admit there is a problem saying things like, officials have been the same for thirty years. It would be a real shame if the money Jones pays his assistant to clean his glasses instead has to go to paying for a regular referee’s health insurance.

For that reason, there is only one solution that exists that would make this situation go away very quickly. The NFLPA should gather together and strike, lock out, whatever, until negotiations between the league and the referees are settled. How can the NFL be so serious in cracking down on player safety and concussions when they will not give the regular referees more benefits for them to be on the field maintaining control of the games?

No fan wants to see games lost to a referee/player strike, yet again, no one wants to see their team lose on Monday night because a referee does not know a rule.

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