I had to take a few days to let this percolate and to let events play themselves out. I knew (KNEW!) that the Monday night travesty would shake up the NFL vs. refs dynamic and suddenly there would be resolution. I've heard and read this and I totally agree: there is NO WAY IN HELL the NFL was going to send replacement referees into Lambeau Field on Sunday. Can you imagine the scene? Ugly, right? Well, I'm sure Roger Gooddell (RG) could imagine that scenario as well and that broadcast would have had the highest ratings for a regular-season game ever. And that audience would have witnessed 70,000 enraged Packer fans throwing every movable item they could get their hands on at the so-called "officials". You think Monday night gave the game a black eye? Sunday would have been a full-body contusion.
So now the real refs are back and all is right with the world, right? Wrong! We will never get that game back. The other 47 games that went down in this young season are all tainted. But all those same talking heads and pundits wringing their hands and declaring the end of football as we know it are now saying, "everything's great! The refs are back! Too bad, Packer fans but everything's all better now! Let's talk about Tim Tebow..." If the rest of the NFL and all the fans are happy about those refs being back, they have the Green Bay team and fans who took the bullet to thank for it. The Packers are the Jesus Christ of the NFL - they lost for your wins!
So, as you might suspect, a lot has been swirling around in that mushy, grey pudding that passes for my brain...
So much has been said and written about that final, fateful moment and little has been said about the 59:54 that went before it. Well, I think I need to say some things: First, the Packer offensive line in the first half was a joke. Bryan Bulaga, normally a pretty good pass blocker, was a human turnstile. He looked like he had been swilling NyQuil before the game, sort of slow-motion...whaaaaaa...where.....hunh....as pass rushers streamed past him on their way to performing chiropractic adjustments on Aaron Rodgers. Likewise, Marshall Newhouse had the look of a scared child, facing his first day of kindergarten and looking like he was going to fall down and go boom rather than block anybody. Our interior linemen looked rooted to the ground like posts, wondering what the heck that swooshing noise was. And the dullness of the line was only exceeded by the stubbornness of the play-calling. Mike McCarthy seemed insane, as in doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Deep drops, roll-outs into a rush, play fakes that nobody bought, patterns that took five seconds or more to develop...when your QB is getting continually pasted, you need to do something DIFFERENT! And, to his credit, MM did shift his entire game-plan at halftime and, surprise surprise, it worked! So why keep running headlong into the brick wall in the first half? I don't know and I would bet MM doesn't know either. If he and his coaching staff had been able to react a little quicker, we would not have been shut out in the first half and the silly sequence of events that ended the game would have never occurred.
I have to give McCarthy some props, though. After that unbelievable end it takes a special kind of man to look his team in the eye and say, "guys, I know this hurts and it hurts bad but we need to put eleven men on the field to finish this extra point. So get out there and do the right thing." I cannot tell you how classy that was. Personally, I would have said an extremely bad word and slammed the door. Then, at his press conference, he showed remarkable self-restraint. If any guy ever had a reason to knock over a podium, punt the mic and swear up a blue streak, MM was that guy. The assembled press corps did their best to provoke him and he almost broke a few times but he was strong. Then, as the week progressed, he held firm: that game is over, we're moving on, our focus is on the New Orleans Saints. I criticize MM often, (as in the paragraph above) but I have a new-found admiration for the man. He is a true leader.
You know, we could have avoided this whole mess if the replacement refs hadn't screwed up an earlier call: On the Seattle series prior to the refs' final, massive failure, the Seahawks had a third-and-long deep in their own territory. Wilson was flushed to his right (Matthews was chasing him) and tired to make a completion along the sideline. Instead the pass was deflected and wound up in the hands of one of our DB's (if you have his name, please tell me) who deftly got his feet down in bounds, interception Packers. BUT NO! The "ref's" had called Erik Walden for roughing the passer. The quick replay that ESPN put up showed that nothing of the sort occurred. Walden tackled Wilson a split second after he released the ball, way out of the pocket, by the legs, not driving into the ground, no blow to the head. The commentators were stunned into silence but the play went on. So what was the effect of this "call"? IF the Packers had kept possession, they were already in field goal range. So that would have been at least three points and maybe seven, no last minute drive, no hail mary, no stupid-ass blown call. Instead the Seahawks would drive down the field (the series aided by a PI call on Sam Shields on third-and-forever where he was grievously assaulted by Golden Tate, a pairing that would fatefully repeat later), took their shots, didn't score on fourth down, turning the ball over, the Packers unable to move or run out the clock, punting it back and then came the awful ending. Long series of events? Sure. But I'm just trying to point out that the refs were the cause of this loss by the Packers through more than the one, blown call.
What has upset me most about this entire mess is the fact that this replacement ref, who had no business being on an NFL playing field, made his mistake but he had a massive amount of back-up available that simply didn't work. In fact, there were six opportunities to make the right call: 1). The initial incorrect call of a touchdown. Supposed "simultaneous possession", even though in later statements, the ref demonstrated a lack of understanding of the concept. 2). The second ref who came in who had a better view of the possession question and started to call "dead ball", which is what he needed to do first before indicating an interception. He could have made the right call. 3). The head ref (the "white hat") should have conferred with his two fellow officials and found out the whole story, find out who had a better look and clarified the the call. He did not, instead coming in, seeing the tussling players fighting for the ball and coming to his own conclusion of a touchdown, despite not having seen the play himself. 4). The replay booth, supposedly staffed by an experienced supervisor, could look at the tape, from every angle possible and take as long as they needed (the game was going to be over with either way) but instead took far less time than they did to spot the football on a MM challenge earlier on. And they inexplicably ignored the video evidence and agreed with the call of a touchdown, not an interception. 5). The league officiating office also reviewed the call on Monday and were well within their power to tell the world that, yes, the game officials screwed that one up. But they didn't. They did say the offensive pass interference committed by Golden Tate to shove Sam Shields out of the way should have been called, but since that's not reviewable, that was a weak-ass bone they tossed to football fans everywhere. 6). Finally, and most telling, the NFL (in the person, I'm sure, of Roger Gooddell) followed the party line they had no doubt laid down in agreeing with the call. They could have said, "yup, that was screwed up but we can't change it, sorry." We'd still be pissed, but at least we'd have some acknowledgement that we weren't all dreaming, insane or hallucinating. Gooddell DOES have the power to change the result but I can't believe that was ever going to happen: it would open a floodgate that could never, ever be closed again. All of those opportunities to get it right or at least admit there was a mistake and the arrogant, stubborn NFL refused to even acknowledge anything at all had happened. Just a controversial call in another big game! That's how these things go! Hey! Want to buy a t-shirt?
Oh, dear lord, there is so much to say on this subject! How about the complete lack of contrition by Golden Tate, who even refuses to admit he gave Shields a shove that allowed him to even be in the picture? How about Pete Carroll, a well known asshole, who blithely goes around saying how he can't understand the controversy. They won, the league says so. How about the sudden settlement of the lock-out and RG standing up in front of the press, saying the Monday night game had nothing to do with it. Yes, that's the same guy who fines and suspends players for tarnishing the "integrity" of the NFL. The same guy who has a self-proclaimed mission statement to "protect the shield" of the NFL. The same guy who brought this whole mess of a lock-out on us over $3.3 million worth of compensation, a sum of money that would be recouped in two Super Bowl commercials with enough left over to buy each real ref a gold-plated whistle. THIS is the same guy who just settled this ref lock-out (remember that HE locked them out) for almost EXACTLY the same deal that was on the table back in June!!!
So where do we go from here? We move on. Personally, I will not be visiting the NFL.com website for the remainder of the year. I will not watch NFL Network. I will not buy a single NFL-branded piece of merchandise. That's my own personal boycott and I urge you to take similar actions. RG has free reign to do whatever the hell he wants as long as he's making money for the NFL. So hitting them in the wallet is the only way to indicate your displeasure. But we do need to move on. We have a football game happening on Sunday and it's importance has increased 1,000-fold for the Packers. So I found this quotation in some fan commentary today and I'm not sure if it's authentic or not but I still like the sentiment, whoever said it:
“I have been wounded but not yet slain. I shall lie here and bleed awhile. Then I shall rise and fight again. The title of champion may from time to time fall to others more than ourselves. But the heart, the spirit, and the soul of champions remains in Green Bay.” – Vince Lombardi