Situation with replacement officials has become beyond ridiculous

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But I watched the Ravens-Patriots game Sunday night, and I mean this sincerely: I have no idea what the score would have been with the real refs. It could have been 38-31 Patriots or 24-20 Ravens or 27-all heading into overtime ... I mean, I have no idea.

I could go through all the mistakes the officials made, but that would diminish the point, like if a friend went on a cruise and said the chicken was overcooked and the sheets were dirty and there was no soap anywhere, and you would say "Gosh, that's annoying," when the real problem wasthat everybody drowned.

This game was chaos. The replacement officials called 24 penalties on the two teams and still had no control of the game. They missed calls they should have made, called penalties that didn't occur and didn't seem to understand the rules. NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were openly begging for the old officials.

We have all seen officials have bad games. We have even seen bad officials. This is different, and unlike anything I can remember. These guys are overwhelmed. They look like they spent 20 years riding a bicycle and now they have to fly a plane, and they keep looking around the cockpit for the handlebar brakes.

I don't think it is a coincidence that some of the worst officiating by the replacements has been during nationally televised games. The bigger the stage, the more nervous they must get.

How can we end this thing? I thought about passing a hat around the country, but that seems inefficient. I wondered if perhaps the NFL can find the money somewhere, anywhere, to pay for proper officiating. I know times are tight, but gee, it sure seems like the NFL is kind of popular.

What would it take to end the officials' lockout? My colleague Peter King wrote today that the gap between what officials want and what the NFL is offering is around $3.3 million per season.

Gosh. That is a big number, isn't it? I don't know how the NFL is supposed to come up with $3.3 million every year ... hey, wait, I just stumbled upon this little news item: The NFL recently signed nine-year agreements with Fox, NBC and CBS that are worth $3 billion a year.

I'm no accountant, but I do have a calculator on my computer. It looks to me like the NFL could settle this dispute for the cost of 0.11 percent of its annual TV take. That is an outrageously high number, of course. I don't think the NFL should completely cave -- this is, after all, a negotiation.

The NFL can start by generously offering 0.04 percent of its annual TV revenue, then bump it up to 0.06 percent of its annual TV revenue, and can probably get an agreement for close to 0.085 percent of its annual TV revenue.

I'm guessing there, but I mean, the officials want to work. I don't think they will be stubborn and insist on that entire, enormous 0.11 percent of the NFL's annual TV revenue. I think they could walk away from this with that 0.085 percent of the NFL's annual TV revenue and feel pretty good about themselves.

And then, if the NFL can somehow find a way to sell a few jerseys and tickets and beers and hot dogs and parking spots ... well, the officials wouldn't get a dime of that. Then maybe the NFL could finally turn a profit. What a relief that would be.