Green Bay Packers "Cheesehead" fans sit at Centurylink Field to watch the Packers play the Seattle Seahawks in their Monday night NFL football game at Centurylink Field in Seattle, Washington, September 24, 2012. (REUTERS)
Who would have guessed that one day the "NFL" would stand for National Farce League?
Or National Fiasco League?
Well, that day has come, people, thanks to the arrogance of this league to actually think that the outcomes of results in this multi-billion-dollar industry could be placed in the hands of officials from the lowest ranks of college football.
Yes, these guys are doing their best. But that doesn't change the fact that it is far from being acceptable.
No offence to these replacement zebras but how does working a game between Nowhere U. and Off-The-Beaten-Path State give you the credibility and background to suddenly determine outcomes of the top football league in the world? It's not like they cut their teeth on the job by working big time Division I games like LSU versus Alabama.
Of course, the NFL quickly came to the aid of their fill-ins, releasing a statement on Tuesday that the right call was made when the winning touchdown was awarded to Seattle on a final play Hail Mary that appeared to be picked off by Green Bay's M.D. Jennings.
The league, of course, recited various details and other minutia to support the decision that gave the Seahawks a 14-12 victory over the Packers. It seems that, according to the NFL's interpretation of the rule book, Seattle receiver Golden Tate's efforts to grapple the ball out of Jennings' arms by the time the two hit the ground in the end zone was good enough for a touchdown.
The NFL certainly was in the minority in that belief.
From Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald to former NFL coach Steve Mariucci, the overwhelming consensus of educated football types was that it was an obvious interception. And if, upon dissection, the league's convoluted explanation of the rule is correct, well, it's a bad rule. Just ask the people who play the game -- at least those not wearing a Seahawks jersey.
But that just scratches the surface of how the league has allowed itself to become a joke with these replacement officials.
In it's statement, the league admitted Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference on the play.
What it didn't address was the ridiculous pass interference call on the final drive against Packers defensive back Sam Shields, who was being mugged by Seahawks wideout Sidney Rice at the time.
It didn't address the claim of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that officials gave him a kicking ball to use while the Packers were trying a two-point convert earlier in the game, a ball that supposedly is more slippery than regular footballs.
It didn't address all the other missed calls and chaotic scrums in the game.
It didn't address the fact that Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bay was carted off the field on a stretcher Sunday, having been knocked out by a flagrant helmet-to-helmet cheap shot from Pittsburgh's Ryan Mundy that was not flagged.
Nor did it address how these replacement officials botched up the number of timeouts teams still have during an opening week Seahawks-Cardinals game, then this past Sunday in the Vikings-49ers contest. Maybe each replacement should be given a league-mandated abacus in order to help them keep count.
In the end, there have been too many screw-ups to keep track of, leading to the type of backlash the image-conscious NFL is not accustomed to.
Drew Brees called the situation "embarrassing." Troy Aikman referred to it as a "joke." LeBron James tweeted that the circumstances at the end of Monday night's Packer-Seahawks game made him "sick." And poor Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden almost had a heart attack up in the booth trying to bite his tongue concerning the mockery that is being made out of the league he loves.
Yet, through all this, the league seems more concerned with fining players and coaches who criticize the replacement officials than it does with returning some integrity to the game. Ridiculous.
In a post-game tweet, Packers guard T.J. Lang got it right when he suggested the NFL should fine him for his disparaging comments about the replacement officials, then use the money to pay the regular zebras to come back.
For those of us fortunate enough to earn a living covering sports, you see some brutal officiating decisions and controversies over the years.
In 1998, I was on the sidelines in Foxborough for Doug Flutie's return to New England as a Buffalo Bill. With the Pats down 21-17 with 11 seconds remaining, a fourth down pass by Pats QB Drew Bledsoe seemed to be out of bounds but was ruled a good catch by the officials. Bills receiver Andre Reed told us afterward that he overheard one of the officials say at the conclusion of the play: "Just give it to 'em" in reference to the Pats.
After a controversial pass interference call, the Pats scored the winning touchdown on the final play of the game. The Bills were so peeved, they left the field and would not come out of the locker room for the extra point, allowing the Pats to beat the spread by running in for a two-point convert for the 25-21 win.
Red-faced Bills owner Ralph Wilson was so livid, we were worried he was going to have a stroke.
Less than a year later, we in Buffalo's HSBC Arena press box watched the ensuing chaos after Brett Hull's "in the crease" overtime goal allowed the Dallas Stars to win the Stanley Cup over a stunned Buffalo Sabres team. It had been thought that all goals would be waved off if a player was in the crease, but the NHL claimed it had sent a private memo to teams indicating players could go into the blue paint if the puck already was there.
Some enraged people in Buffalo still are waiting to see that memo.
This past summer, those of us at the spectacular Donbass Arena in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk for Euro 2012 watched a ball cross the English goal line before it was cleared away by England's John Terry. No goal was awarded to the host Ukrainians, igniting a national outrage and causing FIFA president Sepp Blatter to move forward on implementing video replay.
At least Blatter is being proactive in trying to solve a humiliating characteristic of his sport.
Isn't it about time NFL kingpin Roger Goodell does the same in his by bringing the regular refs back?