The replacement refs — or "scabs," for the sake of ideological purity and more concise headlines — have been a disaster for all three weeks of the NFL seasons, for far more important reasons than a massive embarrassment on national television. The games are taking forever. (The NFL's Red Zone Channel ran up against its 8 p.m. deadline for the first time Sunday because the games were so full of referees attempting to figure out what was going on.) Players are openly bullying refs to get calls, and succeeding. The on-field chaos is causing more fights and more violent hits, and someone's going to get seriously hurt, if they haven't already. But none of that was enough to get the NFL to budge. We bet last night's Monday Night Football madness will, though. Mess with the league's TV ratings, and then we're serious.
The situation: Green Bay up 12-7 over Seattle with six seconds left on the clock, the Seahawks' Russell Wilson running around to find space for a Hail Mary. He throws it into the end zone, and then ... well, you watch.
It's difficult to come up with an explanation of that play that doesn't end with it being a Packers interception and win. (Our favorite bit is when Golden Tate, right before "catching" the ball, just flat shoves a Packers defender out of the way. You know, this is the Packers' fault: They should have just punched Tate in the face when the ball was in the air and assumed the refs wouldn't see it.) The ensuing chaos didn't help. And it's worth noting that the refs never had control of this game in the first place; that clip doesn't show the three or four ridiculous calls that led the Seahawks to have that "chance" in the first place.
Fans were already furious about the scab refs. But last night was without question the tipping point. Packers players took to Twitter to voice their outrage. Mike Tirico, not exactly a voice of rage and protest, blasted the refs on the ESPN telecast. Even the Lingerie Football League recognized the moment, pointing out that it had fired a couple of referees who worked the game.
This was the league's nightmare scenario: a fiasco on national television. But that's a shame: There have been so, so many nightmare scenarios in the first three weeks. This is just the first one the league can't hide from ... and, we bet, the one that finally gets this deal done. It took this to do it, but if the referee lockout isn't over by kickoff Thursday night, the league is more willfully self-destructive than anyone could have imagined. What a shitshow.