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September 25, 2012

Bob Lutz: We want our NFL back

The NFL has officially jumped the shark. It has become a joke and an insult to our intelligence.

By standing behind the touchdown call that gave Seattle a 14-12 “win” over Green Bay on Monday night, the NFL has become folly. Any time Roger Goodell speaks, circus music should be played as accompaniment.

The NFL owners, rather than respect their fans, have collectively thrown pie in their faces. Abbott and Costello should star in a movie about this year’s NFL because it’s been pure slapstick.

People aren’t watching games for the competitive tussle, they’re watching because the league has become a sitcom. Integrity has been replaced by a laugh track.

America, having gone through so many difficult times recently, needs something to snicker about. And the NFL has come to our rescue. If ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” isn’t nominated for an Emmy next year in the Best Comedy category, I’m going to be disappointed.

Instead of getting back to the bargaining table with its locked-out officials Tuesday, the NFL issued a brief statement, stating it stood by the ruling on the field that Seattle receiver Golden Tate had simultaneous possession with Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, which counts as a reception. It’s pure fiction, complete hogwash.

But at least it now provides us with a villain in this matter. The NFL and the owners are the bad guys here; apparently so oblivious to the expectations of the people who built their league (people like you and me) that they’ve entered a world of make believe. They are so arrogant that they actually believe a ridiculous statement like the one released Tuesday will carry some weight.

In the statement, the league did admit that Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference before the catch, when he blatantly shoved a Green Bay defensive player in the back. But, as they so eloquently point out, such a call cannot be reviewed by instant replay.

The NFL, though years of unbridled success and unparalleled popularity, has gotten to the point where it obviously takes its fans for granted. We are shills in the big picture. Our disgust, anger and frustration are white noise to the NFL and its owners, who continue to rake in their millions. There is no incentive to get a deal hammered out with the regular officials because the people who run this league and its franchises know we’re going to keep coming back.

And to really take it to an even higher cynical level, I’m guessing there are owners out there who enjoy the controversy the replacement officials are causing. Has there ever been a 12- to 14-hour period during which the NFL was discussed more?

Integrity has been compromised, yes. But not to the point where the NFL was running to correct its problem today. Instead, the league issued a silly statement that backed up the confusion and ineptitude that reigned over the finish of the Monday night game.

I feel terrible for the replacement officials, who couldn’t have known the quagmire they were stepping into. In fact, would it surprise you if these poor saps threw up their hands and said they have had enough? It wouldn’t surprise me. I half expect it. Working an NAIA game has probably never sounded better to some of these guys.

So what can fans do? Well, for starters, they can boycott these games. I heard a Green Bay fan say on radio today that he wants every Packers fan to stay outside of Lambeau Field on Sunday until after the opening kickoff against the New Orleans Saints. He even furthered the notion that fans should stay in the parking lot for the whole game as a way to show the owners and the league that they have had enough of this inferior product.

And make no mistake, the NFL is an inferior product because of the replacement officials. It’s become an out-of-control league in which players and coaches feel like they can push around the refs because, well, they can.

I was disgusted last night to hear the Seahawks’ Tate and Seattle coach Pete Carroll meekly support the outcome of the Hail Mary pass that resulted in the winning touchdown. Their team may have escaped with a win, but the league lost big. Tate and Carroll should have acknowledged the embarrassing turn of events that led to the Seattle victory for the good of the game and for the solidarity of the cause.

What is the cause?

The cause is make the NFL viable again. It’s for the league’s owners and the officials to iron out an agreement that gets the best refs back on the field, understanding that both sides have to give.

Until that happens, the shield should no longer be regarded as the defining emblem for the NFL. This league isn’t protecting anyone from anything.

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