Watch TV and judge the judges. Now do the same with the NFL.
You might be upset about your favorite potential singer being judged "out" of a competition on "American Idol" or "The Voice." Perhaps your favorite dancer had to leave "Dancing with the Stars" or "So You Think You Can Dance?" Do you have a choice? Sure, change the channel.
Now we come to football and the NFL -- one of the earliest and biggest reality competition TV franchises. Here we have had replacement judges for the first three weeks of the season -- because of a work-contract issue with the real referees.
All isn't going well. Many blown calls have happened since the season began -- and then, on ESPN's "Monday Night Football," it seemed that Green Bay Packers’ M.D. Jennings had intercepted a pass in the endzone as time ran out, giving a win to the Packers over the Seattle Seahawks. But the NFL judges ruled that Seahawks receiver Golden Tate had caught the pass – so Seattle won the game.
We haven't heard about any "blown" calls in TV reality competitions, where, even when judges make the worst decisions, viewers seem to forgive and forget and keep moving.
But what about multiple infractions and their effect on the NFL? People say the NFL brand, the "shield," is being hurt. No, not yet. It hasn't hit anyone's wallet.
The NFL is still be a big deal -- the highest-rated sports TV franchise, and maybe overall TV franchise, and big deal for TV marketers.
NFL may have had some dings -- even a sizable bunch of them -- but the brand doesn't get hurt until fans/TV viewers and TV marketers start shrugging their shoulders with apathy. If ratings drop by 20% this weekend -- you have a problem. The alarm bells would sound.
All of which means the NFL has a long way to go.
Fox's "American Idol" lost ground last year. Some might say those judges were too nice or perhaps too old. Some would say Fox's "The X Factor" went the same route. What happened? They got rid of those refs -- because they were a key part of the content.
NFL referees haven't really been a big part of the "content" of that game. But in the last several weeks they have worked themselves more into the conversation. If that increases, and viewers start gazing into space, only then will the NFL throw a flag.