Ridiculous blown call costs Packers game, uproar over refs ensues

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By Thomas Hair
Opinions Editor

Since the beginning of the NFL season, the familiar black and white uniforms of referees have dotted the field as usual, but with an unfamiliar set of faces occupying them. Hired by the NFL to officiate all of the games until an agreement can be reached with the normal, well-qualified referees, these “replacement refs” only have high school football and collegiate Division III football experience to their name.

For the first two weeks they were only minor hindrance, missing a few obvious calls (illegal hit on Sean Lee) and making some laughably bad decisions (throwing a hat under Kevin Ogletree’s feet) but otherwise not severely impacting the game.

That all changed on Monday night, when the Green Bay packers took on the Seattle Seahawks on national prime-time television.

Referees signaled different calls after Monday night's game-ending play. It was finally ruled a touchdown, giving the Seahawks a 14-12 win to defeat the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 24, 2012, in Seattle, Washington. Seattle Seahawks. (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT)

The Packers had seemed physically dominant all game and had accumulated a 12-7 lead by the final remnants of the fourth quarter, despite shaky officiating throughout. But it all fell apart in a chaotic final ten seconds.

Seahawks rookie QB Russel Wilson threw up a Hail Mary as time expired, an aimless arch to the back of the endzone. A crowd of players gathered beneath the ball and Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings clear got both arms locked around the ball and came down with it for the interception, with Seattle receiver Golden Tate desperately sticking one arm in there. Even the stadium full of Seahawks fans knew it was an interception, you could tell by the disappointed hush that fell over the stadium.

Yet, when two referees ran to the scene, one signaled for a touchdown and the other signaled for an interception. Right next to each other. At the same time.

The two conflicting referees compromised and called it a tie. Seattle was given the touchdown because NFL rules state that when an offensive and defensive player tie for the ball, it is awarded to the offense. Yet, to anyone who saw the play, it was clearly not a tie. This horrid call not only gave the Seahawks the score, but also the entire game. Madness ensued on the field, as the officials reviewed the play and came to the same conclusion: touchdown Seattle. Around the world, hundreds of millions of viewers’ jaws dropped in disbelief. At least the old officials had, you know, eyes.

What has already become known as the “Fail Mary” made Russell Wilson the first quarterback ever to throw a game winning interception. Congratulations to him. However, the Packers definitely won’t be the first ones in line to congratulate the young gunslinger. Following the game, the Green Bay locker room exploded with fury and outrage as the team watched the replay together. Even President Obama expressed his disapproval of the terrible officiating.

For the rest of the NFL world, this is the last straw. The regular officials must be brought back, regardless of the additional microscopic fraction of the NFL’s total revenue that they want to be paid. At this point, the NFL is compromising the quality, not to mention safety, of the game for money.

The replacement referees, though doing the best they can in a tough situation, made such an enormous and jaw-dropping mistake that has engendered a media circus that may force NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell to lure the standard referees back by any means necessary.

If something is not done by kickoff time next Sunday, who knows what the NFL’s stubborness will lead to next?