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NFL ratings will likely go up, not down, this weekend

Outrage Packers Football

Green Bay Packers fan Mike LePak holds a sign in front of Lambeau Field on Lombardi Avenue, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis., in protest of a controversial call in the Packers 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Monday night in Seattle. Just when it seemed that NFL coaches, players and fans couldn’t get any angrier, along came a fiasco that trumped any of the complaints from the weekend. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)


On December 26, 2010, when the NFL decided to move the Vikings-Eagles game from Sunday night to Tuesday night in the face of an impending blizzard, I asked NFL spokesman Greg Aiello if the league is having second thoughts about scheduling a Super Bowl for an open-air stadium in New Jersey. Aiello said, “No. We are the ultimate reality show.”

And here’s the thing about really good reality shows: People want to watch them.

So at a time when some are grumbling about not watching games until the lockout ends, the reality is that more will watch. Under Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ theory that no publicity is bad publicity as long as they spell your name right, the intense coverage in the wake of Monday night’s Seahawks-Packers game will draw folks to the game who would otherwise be inclined only to watch the Super Bowl and/or Tim Tebow.

Given the size of the story, folks will want to witness the next major blunder about which everyone will be talking. And that’s particularly good news for the games broadcast to the largest national audiences: the three prime-time games per week and the main 4:25 p.m. ET game on Sunday afternoon.

The league also benefits from the fact that the anger is directed to the league office, and not to the individual teams, even though the league is the teams and the teams are the league. If fans hang in there when their favorite team suffers a major injury to a key player, there’s no reason to turn away now -- especially since the next major officiating screwup may benefit their favorite team.

That’s the point many continue to overlook. A bad call hurts one team and helps another. Seahawks fans aren’t complaining about what happened Monday night. The next time the replacements screw up -- and screw up they will -- another team necessarily will benefit.

Bottom line? This all makes the NFL more interesting, not less interesting. And that will be very good for the bottom line.