Officially, two Hail Mary's were answered in NFL action this week. Unofficially, one was answered by a referee instead of by prayer, and should never have counted.

If you needed proof that the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, deserve to do penance for not resolving the labor dispute with its officials, all you needed to see was the final eight seconds of Monday Night Football between the Seahawks and the Packers.

We have it here -- while it lasts on YouTube -- and it has to be worse than it looks. It has to be worse because it's clear the National Football League is so taken with its own power that it is ignoring the end product -- the part they wave in front of the fans.

We're not talking about player suspensions for misbehavior or uniform violations or how the NFL handled Bountygate. We're talking about The Game itself.

The result is a league that would rather keep its teams in purgatory, forcing them to endure potential (and in this case, real) game-changing mis-decisions, rather than allow its locked-out referees contractual sanctuary.

The NFL just doesn't care.

The replacement referees hired from Division III and junior colleges -- and apparently the Lingerie Football League (!) -- are not only out of their league, they should never have been IN the league.

It's not the replacement refs' fault, but I wonder if the reason we never hear their names in the media is close to the same reason media won't name minors accused of a crime.

Watching Seattle's Golden Tate push a defender out of the way and try grabbing the ball away from Green Bay's M.D. Jennings, you thought for sure the replacement refs nearest the play would rule it an interception and end the game.

One did. The other called it a touchdown.

The call overshadows a huge performance by the Seahawks' defense, which sacked Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half alone. It overshadows a great effort by Marshawn Lynch, who had a 25-carry, 98-yard bulldozing game against favored Green Bay. It overshadows the growing reputation of rookie Russell Wilson, who should be allowed to sign his own endorsement deal with both his namesakes.

But the judgment is clear: all that should have come in a losing effort.


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