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In Sports Commentary

Chaos reigned supreme Monday night. Now, what is the NFL going to do about it?

Commissioner gone AWOL


As we approach 48 hours after "it" happened, the anger has not subsided. Even if, as has been widely reported Wednesday that the regular officials could be back as early as this Sunday, the damage has already been done.

And for what? A few pennies? Posturing? So as to not appear weak? Oh, the absurdity of it all. Irrespective of detente that is almost literally a day late and a couple of dollars short, the anger that we all have has not come close to subsiding.

Certainly not for Packers fans, not for NFL alumni, not for anyone within the walls of 1265 Lombardi Ave., and not for even the most reserved voices of the game.

"This is wrong," announcer Mike Tirico said during Monday night's postgame telecast, perhaps expressing the only actual opinion he has ever had during his 21 years at ESPN. "I don't feel good about this."

Commentator Jon Gruden added, "I don't like the way this game finished. I have a bad taste in my mouth."

Keep in mind that Gruden otherwise cannot bring himself to criticize any player, on any team, under any circumstances.

"You know the thing I love about Marshall Newhouse? When he's getting beaten like a rented mule and A-Rodg gets flung two ways to Wednesday, he's right there helping his quarterback turn his helmet back around the right way! I love that guy!"

The basic premise is simple. What we all witnessed Monday night in Seattle was an abomination; perhaps the single most disputed regular season play in the 92-year history of the NFL because of the already under-the-microscope nature of the ongoing referees dispute. The fact that the play was incorrectly called on the field was bad. That it was yet another gaffe by incompetent officials on loan from God-knows-where made it infuriating.

That the call was not overturned on replay threatens the very core of the National Football League.

Oh, the NFL isn't going to fold up shop, and there may have been some flailing and tepid attempt at some type of ultimately futile boycott, but what the league stands for has already been compromised beyond any of our wildest imaginations. All for nothing more than walking around pocket change for billionaire owners and the satisfaction of screwing employees out of retirement benefits they had previously bargained for.

Shameful.

"This is affecting the competitive landscape of the NFL," Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said Monday night on the ESPN post-game show. "And now it's not only a problem, it's an emergency situation."

Predictably, however, the league itself, on Tuesday played Baghdad Bob with the collective intelligence of all of us; not only upholding the play, but agreeing with the call itself, absent of a throwaway line about offensive pass interference.

The league's insipid explanation read in part:

When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both (Seattle's Golden) Tate and (Packers defensive back M.D.) Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.

Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.

Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.

No indisputable evidence to overturn the call on the field? Let that one sink in for a moment, because you just got told an outright untruth for the sake of the NFL not wanting to admit it was wrong – either to you or to the locked out officials.

But while those 10 words spelled the death knell for the Packers Monday night, they signaled that the NFL has absolutely no concern for honesty, morals, principles or fair play.

"The legitimacy of the league is at stake," legendary Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King tweeted late Monday night.

"The NFL obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game diminished," an incensed Aaron Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN. "Let's remember who we're dealing with. We're dealing with an NFL that locked out the players and said we're going to stand firm in our position.

"This is the NFL who locked the players out and basically said to cities like Green Bay," Rodgers continued, "who much of our economy out here relies on those 10 home games and the revenue that's generated from the hundreds of thousands of people who come through each week to either watch the game or be around the stadium. This is an NFL who gambled on some low-level referees, including the guy who makes the most important call last night, who's never had any professional experience."

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Talkbacks

PMD | Sept. 27, 2012 at 10:26 a.m. (report)

You know what else has been AWOL since Monday night? Reason and rational behavior. 8 stories across 4 sections in Wednesday's Journal Sentinel. Lead story on the nightly news. Players and fans screaming about injustices. People protesting outside Lambeau Field. Over a football game. Not about an issue of life-or-death. Not about a real injustice with grave implications for people's daily lives (the recent story about 30% of Milwaukee living in poverty comes to mind). A game. Now I love football. College and pro football are synonymous with fall and winter. I watch football from late August through the Super Bowl. But people in this state (and nationwide) have lost their minds and all perspective.

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brewguru | Sept. 26, 2012 at 3:51 p.m. (report)

Doug, Great article and I was thinking the same think...why has the commish been silent through all this? One thing I will disagree with, however, is when you use the line "once respected commissioner..." I don't think he's ever been respected. He comes in and pretends just because G-O-D is the first 3 letters of his last name, that he is a superior being. His selective enforcement of rules violations, his suspending players for Bountygate with no evidence, his claims of "player safety" when the next day the NFL will market a DVD of their hardest hits and now this referee debacle...Goddell has absolutely no respect from players or fans and he never did.

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