The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks matchup on Monday Night Football will be remembered as the game that blew up the Internet. Twitter and Facebook exploded with raw emotional reaction to a call that forced an end to a labor dispute between the NFL and its replacement referees, who have been officiating since June, when the NFL Referees Association was locked out of labor talks.
The play was a Hail Mary throw into the end zone by Seattle in the game's final seconds. Referees ruled the catch a touchdown, despite video replay showing that Green Bay defender M.D. Jennings grabbed the ball and held it to his chest while the Seahawks' Golden Tate put his hand on the ball. Simultaneous catch was decided and a touchdown awarded, giving Seattle the win.
Packers guard T.J. Lang dropped expletives on Twitter: "F—k it NFL ... Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs." That was retweeted 92,314 times in a little more than 36 hours, breaking a Twitter record. Did people do that because of what he said or because of why he said it? Regardless, fans had had enough.
The next day the NFL insulted us by releasing a statement that admitted officials missed an obvious offensive pass interference call — but stood by the final result.
That's right. The NFL stood by the call. The NFL tried to Jedi mind-trick its fans. I guess they knew it was science fiction, since talks resumed the day after the game and went on into the early morning hours.
I don't blame the replacement refs. It's the league's fault. As New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said, "These replacement officials have been put in a really tough position, because they're not qualified with the instincts and everything else to be out there with the speed of the game." He added, "The level of play is just not fair to them. They're doing the best they can."
David Steele, a columnist for AOL FanHouse, wrote a piece for the Sporting News this week stating a good case for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's departure.
The fact that Goodell, with the owners' implied approval, ended up mismanaging a multi-billion dollar business to the point it was compared to the phoniness of pro wrestling — well, that's reason enough for me to agree. Players don't trust Goodell. Fans don't, either. The first three weeks of the season looked like Buffalo Wild Wings commercials, not professional football.
The NFL commissioner is supposed to lead, not rule, to take responsibility for the league and not simply release statements which give the appearance of cover-ups. The regular refs are back, but the damage has been done.
We're still suffering from the Saints bounty scandal/debacle. I don't think I'm alone when I say I've lost even more trust in the NFL.