Football, Sports

NFL officiating debacle costs biggest sport its integrity

Let me be honest and start with this: I’m a Green Bay Packers fan. In fact, I’m a diehard fan in the true sense of the word. That loss to the Giants last year still eats me alive; I think about it much more than I should, even to this day.

Well, maybe not quite to this day anymore. Sure, I’m not over it, but now I have a new loss to be livid about. It’s not a loss that ended the Packers’ season this time – it’s worse.

You might have seen it. And no, I don’t mean the Packers’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night, I mean the NFL’s loss of integrity.

For those who don’t know, the NFL is currently using replacement officials for its games due to a lockout of the “real” referees.

There had been some issues early in the season, but nothing that truly decided the outcome of a game.

Then Monday happened.

The officiating crew in the Packers/Seahawks game on Monday Night Football gave us the most talked about play in recent NFL history. Head referee Wayne Elliot and side judge Lance Easley cost the Packers the game.

I almost never blame games on the officials or vigorously complain about them. Teams win and lose games and referees almost never decide the outcome. Key word: almost.

On the final play of the game, with his team trailing 12-7, Seattle’s Russell Wilson heaved the ball into the end zone and it was intercepted by Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings.

Except, well, Easley ruled that it wasn’t. He called it a touchdown for Seattle’s Golden Tate who, by the way, committed blatantly obvious – and uncalled for, of course – offensive pass inference on the play.

Replays clearly show that Jennings skied above the other players, caught the ball, and came down with the ball against his chest. Tate had an arm draped over the ball and tried to rip it away. Easley evidently felt that was good enough and opted to award the game to the Seahawks.

It’s a shame. Not for me, not for M.D. Jennings, not for the Packers. No, it’s a shame for the NFL.

The biggest, most popular sports league in America is willing to throw away its integrity, to hand it to a guy who is used to refereeing junior college football.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL owners are willing to see the league’s image tarnished.

They’re willing to see some of the best athletes in the world hit each other for 60 minutes, only to have an unqualified referee tell them which team had more points.

And watching Elliot and Easley decide the outcome of an NFL game was apparently okay in the league offices. The NFL released a statement the next day that basically said, “Aw shucks, deal with it.”

Growing up I’ve always felt and been told that integrity is one of the most important things someone can have. Money can’t buy it and no one can take it from you.

Roger Goodell and the rich NFL owners apparently aren’t concerned with the league’s integrity, though, just dollars and cents. So, they won’t give in to the “real” refs.

They will fine a player for wearing a hat they don’t like, but they’re okay with officials changing which team gets a tally in the win column.

They’re okay with turning the game that millions of people love into an absolute joke. Seriously, look at all of Monday night’s tweets, there was some hysterical stuff.

However, the loss that is being suffered by the NFL is so big that it really shouldn’t be a laughing matter.

It’s one of the biggest losses in pro sports history. And it didn’t just happen to the Packers or their fans. It happened to all of us.

Thanks, Roger.

September 26, 2012


Alex Schwartz

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