Welcome back, referee Ed Hochuli and your shirtsleeve-busting biceps. We missed you. Fans in Green Bay, especially. We vow to never again boo you or your fellow game officials, or to chant, “Ref, you stink!” — at least until the first ridiculous call by your crew against our team, betting interest or fantasy result mandates such action.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell trumpeted the end of our (not so) long national nightmare Thursday with a news conference about the labor agreement that will replace the replacements with the real officials who have actually earned their stripes.
The lockout was “painful for everybody,” Goodell said.
Really? No it wasn’t.
“We’re sorry to have put fans through that,” he said.
Except, most fans didn’t go through anything.
Pretty much only Packers fans did.
Most fans’ teams were affected minimally if at all by the lockout and faux refs. We were vaguely aware games were running a bit longer (by about nine minutes), but that was about it. I mean, yeah, there were a few blown calls, but aren’t there always?
Monday was different because Green Bay had its victory stolen by incompetent officiating and handed to Seattle. It was a crime. There were 16.2 million witnesses.
If the Packers miss the playoffs by one game, or the Seahawks make it by one, the season will have been in some way tainted, inviting an asterisk.
Even if that result does not end up having that impact, more than just Packers fans can look back at this officiating mess as regrettable and, even worse, preventable.
The result of clearly inferior, under-prepared substitute officials was foreseeable, but it took Monday’s national embarrassment to spur the NFL to action it should have taken in the offseason. Small change and stubbornness prevented a new deal. The give it took to get this done amounted to a bit more than $100,000 per team, a piddling.
By the way, I’m going to go ahead and recommend Goodell not attend Sunday’s Misery Bowl game, Saints at Packers. He might not feel welcome.
On one sideline would be a winless New Orleans team decimated by Goodell’s Bountygate punishments — sanctions invited by the Saints’ own actions, yes, but sanctions that in retrospect might be fairly debated as perhaps too harsh. The vigor of Jonathan Vilma’s legal challenge suggests so. One also mulls whether a full-season suspension of coach Sean Payton also was too severe.
And on the other sideline would be the Packers team that history will note as the only tangible victim of Goodell’s mishandling of the 2012 officiating mess — the time he put money over the NFL’s integrity.
Scatter-shooting the league:
• Quietly, swallowed by the Saints’ 0-3 start, Drew Brees has now thrown a touchdown pass in 46 consecutive games and Sunday can tie the all-time record held for so long by Johnny Unitas.
• The 2,287 points scored entering Week 4 (47.6 per game) were the most in any three-week span in NFL history. So were the 248 touchdowns.
• Who’d have bet the Cardinals, Texans and Falcons would be the last three unbeatens? This is Arizona’s first 3-0 start in 25 years in the desert, Houston’s first in 11 franchise years and Atlanta’s first since 2004.
• The 28 games decided by eight points or fewer through three weeks tied 1988 for the most ever at this point.
• Jaguar Maurice Jones-Drew’s 59-yard scoring run last week was his 12th career touchdown run of 30-plus yards. Impress your friends by pretending you knew that tied him for the most among active guys with Titan Chris Johnson and Panther DeAngelo Williams.