This image, from Monday night's Hail Mary completion, with
one official signaling a score and the other a turnover, is
being seen as symbolic of the replacement referees' performance.
It's never been my style to criticize the officials at sporting events, even when they made questionable calls that went against my team.
Bad calls come with the territory — and when all is said and done, it tends to come out equal. Most of us have as many dubious calls that favor us as ones that go against us.
I have watched the replacement referees trying to do a tough job under trying circumstances, and I have sympathized with teams that were hurt by clearly blown calls.
But I have remained silent — partly because I know that things usually balance out in the end but mostly because my father told me when I was young that a single play or call seldom decides the outcome of a game. I believed it.
I guess I still believe that — even though a blown call at the end of the Monday Night Football game obviously did decide the outcome of that game, and it is the clearest evidence yet that the NFL and the officials need to settle their labor dispute and get the experienced referees back on the field.
This is similar to the weeks a quarter of a century ago when the NFL's players were on strike, and team owners chose to field replacement teams manned by all sorts of frustrated athletes who had been forced to do something else for a living rather than cancel games.
To be sure, a handful of those guys exceeded expectations and went on to play in the real NFL for awhile after the strike ended, but most of them went back to whatever they had been doing before — selling lawn furniture or insurance or whatever.
And the same fate may await the replacement refs today. Some of them have performed well and would deserve a chance to prove they belong out there, but the vast majority have not. Monday night's game was simply the most blatant example.
Sportswriter Joe Posnanski says it was "a farce."
In The Sporting News, David Steele argues that the case against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been building for months. Steele thinks Goodell should step down if he can't (or won't) satisfactorily resolve the situation.
Even the candidates for president are weighing in.
And normally mild–mannered Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers apologized to fans for the poor performance of the replacement refs.
"Some stuff just needs to be said," Rodgers said, observing that the NFL won't. "The games are getting out of control."
Only one thing will bring the games back under control — a resolution of the labor dispute.