“We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of the crime of murder.”
Those were the words uttered by the jury delivering the verdict at the OJ Simpson trial, Oct. 3, 1995 inside a packed California Superior Courtroom.
On Monday Night Football, in front of 67,000 Seahawks fans and millions at home the NFL’s officials made the Simpson jury look like constitutional scholars. Pete Carroll’s simultaneous touchdown signal after the official’s review mirrored Johnnie Cochran’s post-verdict first pump.
However, despite the dwindling integrity of Goodell’s replacement officials, don’t expect Monday night’s Immaculate Touchception to become the impetus that brings about the original officials return.
Larry Fitzgerald, whose father is a Minnesota sportswriter has been outspoken in his view of the NFL’s replacement officiating this season.
"I just want the integrity of the game to stand the way it's been,' said Fitzgerald. "The reason fans watch the game is because they know that what they're going to see out there is the best competition and play in the world.”
Unfortunately, league integrity plays as much of a role in the league’s decisions as balanced coverage does in Fox News’.
This season, the NFL has become the National Football Schadenfreude. Tears of Packers fans will produce the most precipitous Seattle rain season in recent history but all you can do is laugh at Goodell’s misfortunes.
The owners are content with the martial law as evidenced by Jerry Jones’ and other owners feigned ignorance towards the shoddy officiating.
Why? Because fans will continue watching like drug addicts will do anything for a hit.
The only high profile strike in recent memory that compares was the ‘07-‘08 Hollywood Writers Strike, which halted production of scripted television after previously unheralded screenwriters went on strike. Even they couldn't have written a better ending to the NFL's third week of the replacement officiating era. The drama surrounding the Simpson Trial was the godfather of reality television but during the Writers Strike, ratings for reality television exploded.
For casual fans, the stopgap officials have become weekly television viewing. Americans also love to watch a wreck and Monday night was the Exxon Valdiez. ESPN’s 90-minute SportsCenter immediately following the Seahawks win was the most watched episode ever.
Having a gang of inept ex-Lingerie League officials deciding the fate of NFL matchups isn’t anymore ridiculous than Nicki Minaj replacing Simon Cowell and Jennifer Lopez as judge in a singing competition?
Lance Easley, the side judge who signaled touchdown for Tate will be ignominiously immortalized alongside late boxing ref Ruby Goldstein and the disgraced NBA officiak Tim Donaghy but he has become a minor celebrity.
As a whole officials are in the throes of their 15 minutes of infamy. ESPN rules analyst Gerard Austin is in his first year as an on-air officiating expert and FOX’s Mike Pereira, the former Vice President of Officiating is a vet in the television game.
If the ratings improve for Monday Night Football next week, why doesn't the NFL just up the ante? The NFL will continue utilizing replacement officials for the near future but they should have at least sprung for a few celebrity names.
The Supreme Court hasn’t heard an argument since June. Chief Justice Roberts is probably itching to throw a few yellow flags and review a field decision. A partnership between the NFL Network and CSpan would restore a modicum of the league’s integrity while boosting ratings by pulling in the Sunday morning political talk show audience.
Kato Kaelin, a star witness in O.J.’s defense revealed last week that he now believes O.J. murdered his ex-wife Nicole and Ron Goldman. Surely, a man who has enough introspection to reconsider his stance in the Trial of The Century could go under the hood and reverse the ruling of a side judge.
The NFL isn't at rock bottom yet and neither are the fans. Like any addictive product, it’s going to take a lot more embarrassment for the league to finally capitulate to the union’s demands and for fans in the streets to finally ween themselves off the NFL's low-grade product. Don't count on it though.