Fans were elated as referee Gene Steratore announced at last night's game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens that the lockout finally ended and real referees had returned.
"Gentleman, its good to be be back," he said.
We couldn't agree more.
What was more or less a ho-hum story heading into the season had turned into an all-out mutiny in just three short weeks. Players and fans alike were fed up with what felt like a never-ending string of bad calls, missed calls and overall poor game management.
From the ref that officiated a New Orleans game being outed as a Saints fan on Facebook, to another replacement that asked Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to help out his fantasy team, the scab saga never fell short on comical anecdotes. (The capper: The Lingerie Football League announced this week that it fired some current NFL replacement ref crews due to “incompetence.”)
All jokes aside (and there have been many), it was the game-swinging calls on the field that drew the most ire from legions of NFL fans. Not to say officiating was perfect prior to this season, but everything from catch reviews to rough hits to clock/timeout management were under a meddling microscope through the first three weeks. With paramount issues like player safety and game outcomes at stake, people start calling for the head of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Clearly, the real refs couldn't have come back any sooner—especially when you consider that the two sides (referees and owners) were only $60,000 apart per team in reaching a resolution. Relatively speaking, it was practically pennies holding back a multi-billion dollar business from pushing through the doldrums of the early 2012 season.
Now that Goodell and Co. finally have everything sorted out, we can rest assured that there won't be any more on-field atrocities to clog up social media networks in upcoming weeks—at least not those created by crummy replacement refs.
Before we head into the rest of the regular season with fair calls—and our faith in the black and white stripes restored—we're counting down the 10 worst officiating offenses in 2012. We hope this marks the end of bad calls and bad blood...and the return of some unmissable nights of football.