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Game Day: Saying Goodbye to the NFL Replacement Refs

It seems that the Packers vs. Seahawks game is all anybody has talked about in national sports news since an infamous incident on Sept. 24. If you are an avid football fan (or are friends with any of these fans on Facebook), you have probably heard about the game’s controversial officiating and how it inevitably led to the settlement of the NFL referee lockout.

Essentially, the Seahawks’ receiver Golden Tate scored a touchdown on the final play of the game, causing Seattle to win the game 14-12. M.D. Jennings, a safety on the Packers, appeared to intercept the ball by catching it against his body, but Tate managed to get a grip by putting an arm around the ball. One official ruled it as an interception, but the final ruling on the field was that of a touchdown, inciting immediate debates about the validity of the call. You can see the video here of the ending play.

It’s not news that in every sport, at all levels, questionable officiating can determine the outlook of a game. Yet the stakes were raised much higher in this NFL game as the referee lockout began in June (and ended Sept. 30 with the negotiation of new contracts), requiring the league to use “replacement refs” who have clearly been scrutinized more closely than the regular refs. Many argue that the replacement refs have been unfairly criticized throughout the ordeal and, with the return of the regular refs on Sept. 30, we were reminded that all referees are capable of making glaring mistakes.

With the locked out refs now back (newly negotiated and settled with the NFL), it remains to be seen what sort of calls we can expect from them. Ultimately, the league stands by its prerogative: get the call right, no matter how long it takes. Yet that does not erase the fact that Packers fans are still upset with the injustice of the questionable call. For many, the lockout has felt like an unnecessary headache: the league quickly changed its sails after the Packers vs. Seahawks problematic touchdown call and made concessions to give into the refs’ labor demands. We are all left asking why it took such a huge officiating mistake in order for the NFL to settle with the regular refs, giving the game the integrity it deserves with competent refs.

The ending of the referee lockout is not a permanent solution to the problem of questionable calls, but it does raise the question of how far the NFL is willing to go to avoid doling out more money that they clearly have. Now that fans can wave goodbye to the replacement refs and give a standing ovation to the return of the regular refs, it will be interesting to see whether officiating remains a central issue of the NFL season.
Photo credit: http://media.katu.com/images/120928_a_Packers_Seahawks_Football_23.jpg

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