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Even politicians are getting involved: Following the Packers loss, Wisconsin state Sen. Jon Erpenbach tweeted NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell’s phone number, and the message, “If tonight’s game doesn’t make the NFL settle with the real refs this season will be a joke.”
Fans are paying, too, with both their time and money. Games that should take three hours to complete are taking closer to four, as replacement refs take longer to discuss calls, correct bad ball placements, and reverse rulings. This morning, ESPN Sports business writer Darren Rovell reported that the game ending call in Monday night’s Seattle win shifted between $150 million and $250 million in money that NFL gamblers had riding on the game.
The only party not paying a price, it seems, is the only party that can end it: the NFL itself. In its first two weeks, Monday Night Football ruled the cable ratings, topping 10 million viewers each time. Sunday night’s Patriots-Ravens game on NBC had more viewers than ABC’s Primetime Emmy Awards. And the referee debacle has everyone talking about the NFL, even overseas media outlets. Though Goodell and the NFL are losing the public relations battle, they aren’t losing much else.
And as long as the players keep playing and the fans keep watching, it may stay that way.