The NFL's replacement referees have made plenty of egregious errors during the first three weeks of the regular season. They nearly handed the Seahawks a win in Week One by giving them an extra time out in their game with Arizona. They extended last Monday's game between the Broncos and the Falcons to nearly four hours' running time with numerous drawn-out replay conferences. On Sunday, they even gifted 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh not one, but TWO additional replay challenges! How nice of them!
However, none of these (and any of the dozens of other) mistakes from the scab officials can be directly attributed to changing the outcome of a game. The ebb and flow of a football game is such that it would almost require that a mistake occur on the final play of the game to allow fans and critics of the refs to say with full certainty "AH HA!! SEE?!? THAT mistake cost THAT team the game!"
Well, the wait for that moment ended late Monday night when replacement officials in the Packers-Seahawks game decided that Seattle receiver Golden Tate stuck enough of his arms into what should have been an M.D. Jennings interception to award Tate a touchdown and give the Seahawks a 14-12 win over the Pack.
In case you missed it, or if you want to relive it, here you go:
So allow me now to say it...ahem... "AH HA!! SEE?!? THAT mistake cost THAT team the game!"
The fallout was predictable and undeniable. The story led every iteration of Sportscenter and even got some run on the national morning news shows like The Today Show. Callers flooded phone lines to discuss the ramifications of the play on the current referee work stoppage. (On my show, we had easily our most active day on the phones since the Texans were knocked out of the playoffs last season.)
The internet rumbled, the earth shook, and a Wisconsin state senator named Jon Erpenbach even posted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's phone number on Twitter:
You can leave a message for nfl commish roger goodell at 212 450 2027.#NFL
— Jon Erpenbach (@JonErpenbach) September 25, 2012
Gamblers everywhere, at least the estimated seventy percent whose money was on the Packers (at anywhere from three- to four-point favorites), flipped from euphoria to confusion to, well, leaving irate voicemails for Roger Goodell within a matter of about two minutes. It was estimated by R.J. Bell of pregame.com that $300 million changed hands on that one call, which for gambling purposes flipped not only the cover on the spread but the moneyline winner (gambling speak for "team that actually won the game on the field") as well. Honestly, this was one of those moments that makes Vegas sportsbooks one of the most compelling "people watch" places in the world, with every emotion and most of the seven deadly sins on full display:
It even caused this morbidly obese Detroit Lions fan to go completely batshit crazy in defense of the Packers:
(By the way, twenty f-bombs total, in case you were curious but unable to keep track. Twenty. In ninety seconds. And one "suck on my man titties, bitch.")
The NFL issued a statement Tuesday morning explaining the rules at work on the final play, clarifying what exactly can and cannot be overturned by instant reply, and admitting that the referees did miss a blatant Golden Tate shove in the back of Sam Shields that should have been called offensive pass interference (conveniently enough, a missed call that cannot be overturned by replay review).
(SIDE BAR: When the book about the "Great Referee Fiasco of 2012" is written, Golden Tate will probably require his own chapter, having been directly involved in two signature plays that put the scab refs' collective ass on full display -- 1) the play in which Tate delivered a crackback block on Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee that nearly decapitated Lee but saw the Cowboys called for an ultra-marginal late hit across the field and 2) Monday night's debacle.)
According to Peter King of si.com, the issues being haggled over at the moment are a) primarily the league's desire to have tighter week-to-week control over the quality of referees and retention of the right to remove officiating crews from service based on their results and b) the changing of the referees pension fund (which gets about $5.3 million dumped into it each season) into more of a 401(k) type plan that would save the league $3.3 million.
Goodell appears steadfast in his desire to see these changes implemented, even if it means enduring the short-term pain inflicted from these striped donkeys he's trotting out there to steer the on-field ship for his $9 billion empire, a decision that, as tensions continue to rise and as more players continue to push the envelope of "what can I get away with?", flies in the face of the league's public
farce of a stance on player safety.
In the meantime, on the heels of the NFL's answer to the WWE's Montreal Screwjob, I can sit and hope that we finally get to see a wide receiver try and get open by throwing salt in a defensive back's eyes.
(Fast forward to the 2:00 mark)
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Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.