On Monday night, and most of Tuesday, the country directed its frustration at the NFL over the controversial final play of the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game on ESPN's "Monday Night Football", live from Seattle.
Our fellow Americans bonded Tuesday over a collective outrage, a gross injustice, an internationally televised assault on America's most popular professional sport. It became painfully obvious to the NFL, if you want to get on the bad side of the American sporting public, mess with their football.
The NFL has locked out its regular referees because of a labor dispute. For the past three weeks, NFL fans have expressed their disappointment over the subpar performances of the NFL's replacement referees. However, the criticism has been relatively mild and fans have kept their fingers crossed in hopes that these replacement refs wouldn't blow a call that cost a team the game.
Well, on Monday night at CenturyLink Stadium in Seattle, that's exactly what happened.
The refs appeared to blow the most important call of the game, giving the Seahawks a touchdown on the final play, thus a 14-12 victory, while everyone else watching seemed to know it was an interception. The level of NFL fans' angst and criticism of the replacements refs went off the charts, placing additional pressure on the NFL to get the labor dispute resolved quickly.
"Terrible," President Barack Obama said about the game's ending. "I've been saying for months, we've gotta get our refs back."
With eight seconds remaining and the Seahawks trailing 12-7, quarterback Russell Wilson threw a 24-yard pass. Packers safety M.D. Jennings appeared to catch the ball for an interception. As Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate tried to wrestle the ball away, the referee signaled a touchdown. The refs reviewed the replays and insisted that Tate had shared possession of the ball.
"I love this game and love the game of football," tweeted New Orleans saints quarterback Drew Brees, "but tonight's debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we're supposed to represent."
In a statement, the NFL upheld the ruling. The statement gave no indication of when the labor dispute might be settled. However, the NFL and representatives for the refs were negotiating Tuesday. Those talks had been scheduled prior to Monday night's episode.