The National Football League has been locked in a labor dispute with its referees. So this summer the league hired replacement officials to manage its games. For three weeks these inexperienced refs bumbled their way through 47 games, getting most of the calls right. But that changed on Monday night in front of a national television audience. The refs blew a huge call on the final play of the game and robbed one of America’s most popular teams of a hard-fought victory.
The reaction from fans, pundits and fellow athletes was swift and furious. Normally neutral commentators reacted with disbelief and scorn. ESPN’s SportsCenter set an all-time ratings record as incredulous fans tried to make sense of this debacle. Facebook was alight with fans vowing not to watch NFL games until the real refs return. Athletes who are normally restrained in their tweets exploded in anger. Even President Obama questioned the call.