By now, any football fan who watched the game last night should be familiar with one of the greatest disgraces in NFL history. Down 12-7 in the 4th quarter, Seattle heaved a hail mary pass to the endzone that appeared to be intercepted by a Green Bay player. By rule, the game should have been called as time expired and the victory awarded to Green Bay. However, the officials watching the play had another idea.
The rulebook of the NFL states that if players have dual possession of a football, the tie goes to the offense and he is awarded the catch. In this case, a touchdown. However, if a defensive player has possession first, and the ball gets ripped away on the ground, it’s irrelevant and the ball is awarded to the defensive player. In this case, it would be given to Green Bay, and the interception would seal the victory. In what may be the most ridiculous photo of the NFL season, two officials watching the exact same play called entirely different interpretations. One said Seattle ball and the other Green Bay. So, without conference, the game is handed to Seattle in what has to be one of the more embarrassing moments in the NFL’s storied history.
The NFL is supposed to be the crown jewel of American sports. There are no perennial powerhouse Yankee teams with no salary cap or glorified all-star teams like the Miami Heat, there are no scandals with steroids (only isolated incidents), they fine players for every illegal hit, and most games are not heavily impacted by officiating. I don’t think this is what the NFL had in mind when the “any given Sunday” slogan became trendy.
One of the worst aspects of this whole fiasco is the fallout, and more importantly the Seattle players post game interviews. Do they have no integrity? As a grown man, how can you do an interview as a member of the Seahawks and say “well, it was a great play, what a catch! ” Do I expect them to say that the call should be overturned? Of course not. From what I’ve read out of the Seattle locker room, it seems that most of the players were equally embarrassed by the decision, but for Golden Tate to completely lie on television and say “I don’t know what you’re talking about” when confronted is embarrassing for the league and a backhand to sportsmanship. There’s a way to go about it while being classy and not throwing your team under the bus at the same time. Is it too much to expect that while the players are happy to get a win, they understand the referees may have made a mistake on the final play? Pardon the pun, but the Seattle organization dropped the ball on this one.
The NFL has come out today and supported the ruling of the referees to the surprise of absolutely no one. Locked in a labor dispute with guys who can get the calls right, why would they admit that they’re incompetent and disgracing the game? There’s an old saying growled out in the classic western The Outlaw Josey Wales where a man says “don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s rainin.” Those words seem fitting considering the events.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the fact that the only people who think they won the game are a few Seattle Seahawks, and even then we can’t be sure they really feel that way. The Packers, all the players around the league, players from other sports, celebrities, all the sportscasters, and anyone who saw the play knows that Green Bay won. It’s a cut and dry call. It’s as if the ending was obvious to everyone except to the people who are paid to watch the play: the referees.
So, who’s to blame? The replacements? It would be easy to scapegoat them considering they’re completely in over their heads.
No, the blame goes on corporate greed.
The initial lockout occurred because the referees demanded increased salaries, a more complete benefit package, and their pensions when retirement hit. The NFL would like to replace pensions with a less expensive 401(k) plan. In a multi-billion dollar industry, it’s nothing but complete plutocracy to not increase the salary of the refs when revenues are at an all-time high, player salaries are at an all-time high, and the league is cruising along with a healthy business outlook. Are the refs demands reasonable? Does it matter? Nope. Is a quarterback making over $100 million plus endorsements reasonable? Well, it’s irrelevant, because those are the facts. It’s supply and demand. The NFL obviously does not have a large supply of competent people to referee an NFL football game, and for that they must pay up. Did they really believe the officials weren’t a commodity? Don’t hate on the little man here. This is the fault of smug owners who thought they could go on without them and the hubris that followed allowed them to skirt the issue on and fail to develop a good contingency plan.
Guess what? Your bluff just backfired on national television in the most popular version of your sport.
This is the most comical aspect.