It’s back: the moaning and complaining about NFL officiating. It takes place annually. It occurs each and every month, week, day, and hour of the NFL season. It’s as predictable as October’s softly falling leaves and Santa starting his non-union elf workshop. Groan, complain, and whine. The fan officiating the three-step is an NFL fan. It is true that the NFL’s referees are generally not very competent at what they do, which is why we all do it.

Is there a way to measure how much worse the officials are this year than they were last year? It’s more based on what our eyes tell us than it is on precise science. Blown calls, however, are as common as they were years ago. You can find complaints about them everywhere. Fans, coaches, media, and owners all despise officiating. That has been the case for many years and most likely will continue to be so. Are you aware of the reason?

Since you put up with it.

You, you, and you. You guys who watch the NFL, and then whine about the refereeing, keep watching the game nonetheless.


This issue would go away if your standards for football (NFL) were higher.

You set lower expectations for the NFL but raise them for other aspects of your life. Your expectations for other TV shows you watch are higher. You use a different kind of washing detergent because you have higher expectations.

Nobody is denying that officiating is difficult. The NFL’s attitude towards the work makes it much worse. Like it’s a side gig rather than the important job that it is.

You would purchase a Samsung if your iPhone broke down on a monthly basis and Apple did not take significant steps to fix it. You would buy a different brand of automobile if your vehicle broke down all the time, the way an NFL official does after they make a bad call.

But because we are addicted to football, terrible officiating is one of the few things in life we can put up with. We gave the NFL carte blanche. We get our big games, fantasy football, Dolly Parton, and little extras like instant replay, but the product is completely destroyed by the league’s subpar refereeing. Meanwhile, the NFL makes fun of us. The association. chuckles. At. Us.

However, here we are, you and me, requesting more. Despite the missed calls and ineptitude, we continue to watch, and the NFL is only concerned about that because they know we will continue to do so.

If the NFL didn’t take more dramatic measures to address the problem, like switching to full-time officiating or making the entire process less sacred and more public, fans could alter all of this by declining to watch games. Rather than use a pool reporter after a game when a call goes wrong, the league should have officials stand at a podium and field questions from the public, much like coaches and players do.


All of it might be changed by you, my fan buddy. You are in charge.

But the NFL knows you won’t use it, and you won’t. The NFL is completely aware of this, too. It is dependent upon it. It depends on your complacency and the knowledge that, by the time your team (fantasy or real) plays again, your ire over a missed call will have subsided. The league is firmly rooted in the understanding that you will move on.

Don’t get me wrong: the NFL, at least in part, enjoys the fact that officiating stirs up a great deal of discussion and often even hostility. I can assure you that this is real, even though no one from the league office will state it publicly.

The more journalists like me write about it, the more we contribute to the dispute, which in part—if not entirely—creates interest.

Additionally, the realm of gambling is fed by officiating errors. Gambling is a risky and volatile activity, and its positive and negative effects are amplified if the referees are so terrible that the game becomes more chaotic.

The NFL understands, with icy clarity, that as fans, you have no real choice, maybe more so than for any other reason. There is no way that the CFL or any other professional football league will draw in as many viewers as the NFL does. College football is the same.

Out of the 100 most-watched American television shows in 2022, 82 were from the NFL. In 2021, that percentage was 75 out of 100.

There is no cure for the league; it is ingrained in our system. even when the product is gravely compromised by the officiating. The NFL could rig games, but since it has you, it won’t. Much like in The Matrix.

You are to blame for that.

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