After one of the most controversial calls in recent sports history, the reactions from eveybody in the stadium told the whole story. The Seattle Seahawks, the home team, were ecstatic upon realizing the officiating crew made a decision that helped their team toe victory on Monday night. The Green Bay Packers stared at the ground and shook their heads.
Football is such a passionate sport, and even the closest call can be endlessly debated. This time there were no objections; no arguments; nothing. The Packers and some of their loyal fans were shocked, hurt and ready to go home. The ruling on the field shocked football fans everywhere.
But not this fan — I wasn’t watching.
I am just the latest in a growing trend of fed-up football fans. When Sundays roll around, we are turning off our televisions and our laptops and putting jerseys back in the closet. National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell failed us, and deserves to suffer the consequences for tainting America’s most popular sport.
For those who do not know the whole story, the regular referees are currently in a labor dispute with their employers, the NFL, and the game is suffering because of it. Commissioner Goodell brought in a group of replacement referees whose former jobs range from Costco store manager to former referee for the Lingerie Football League. But according to a report from the New York Daily News, the officials who previously worked for the LFL were fired by the league.
Because of these replacement referees, countless games had momentum swings in favor of a team that was just lucky. Fighting is at an all-time high and there is almost no accountability for mistakes. These people are not qualified to do this job. A referee was actually removed from a game because he was a fan of one of the competing teams.
This is not an insult to their character, work ethic or morals — they are simply not qualified. Game announcers are constantly correcting their mistakes live on air, players are getting calls that they ask for on the field and the integrity of the game is at stake. All of this has been true since the season started, but nobody could have definitively said a game was won or lost directly because of the actions of replacement referees until Monday night.
Here’s the straw that broke the camel’s back: With seven seconds left in a tight and poorly officiated game, the Seahawks were down by five points and were looking to score on a last-second pass in the end zone. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson tossed up a prayer of a pass meant for wide receiver Golden Tate, who was in a crowd of players from both teams. It appears the ball was caught by Green Bay Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings, even though Tate also had a hand in the play. If so, the game should have ended with an interception by Jennings and a Packers victory. One replacement referee even waved his hands to signal the game was over. However, the other threw his hands up for a touchdown, and the Seahawks were awarded the win.
The argument for a touchdown is as follows: on simultaneous catches, when both players have equal possession, the catch is awarded to the offense. However, it was clear to most spectators that Jennings had more control and should have been credited with the game-saving interception.
Following that sports travesty, President Barack Obama was asked to give his opinion.
“I’ve been saying for months, ‘We’ve got to get our refs back,’” Obama said.
We all have, Mr. President. We all have.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday Sept. 26 print edition. Sebastian van Heyningen is a deputy sports editor. Email him at [email protected]