The mistakes have been hard to ignore.  There was the botched coin toss at the Hall of Fame Game. The holding call during the Giants-Jaguars game, which sounds like a normal call, until you find out it was on the punt returner.  Now misidentifications do happen, but those have not been the worst of the calls. The worst might have been when during RGIII’s debut a ball downed at the 5 yard line was ruled a touchback. Or when during a Charger game there was a clear helmet to helmet hit on a defenseless receiver, resulting in an interception. The appropriate call was made, but the mistake came when the refs allowed the intercepting team to retain the ball and were just pushed back 15 yards.  If blunders like this are occurring in the pre-season it does not bode well when the bright lights come on, the game speed increases exponentially, and the starters are on the field the whole game.  Calls like the ones listed above could determine outcomes of the games and ultimately the season and fans should be nervous.

The cause of this is of course the NFL referee lockout of 2012, that more than likely will continue into the start of the season this week. The dispute, as most labor disputes are, is economical, with a total amount of approximately $16.5 million being disputed over a period of five years.  At the beginning the players and the players union stood behind the cause, but after the debacles during the pre-season the players have switched sides as they are now concerned about their own safety.  Sadly, for the players and the fans there does not seem to be an end in sight as no talks are scheduled between the NFL and the refs two days before the season will be underway.

The fact is the NFL needs to quit pretending the replacement refs are not as bad as they are and stating they are bad for both teams so it is fair. The truth is the NFL is the most popular league in the nation and generates around $9billion annually. The only thing that will come from allowing the replacement refs to continue officiating games in the regular season is risking player safety, frustrating its beloved fans and seriously damaging the NFL brand.  The NFL needs to reach out to the refs and give them what they want to reach a long-term agreement, so they can get back on the field and stay there.  Over the years the NFL has invested to obtain a group of competent, highly trained officials and it turns out it was well worth it. The fans and players have realized it and it is time the NFL did as well.

“Let’s just hang out here for a while and someone upstairs will tell us what’s what.” “Okay.” “Candlesticks make a nice gift.” (Julio Cortez / AP)