Editor’s note: Steven Kalas, a diehard Packers fan, wrote this column when he was still smarting from Green Bay’s controversial loss — and before the NFL came to terms with the referees on a new contract.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and the National Football League can’t come to terms with their referees. Unfortunately, the 2012 NFL season started three weeks ago. So, while Goodell and the referees play economic “chicken,” our gridiron heroes have played under the watchful eyes of replacement officials.
It’s been ugly. And embarrassing. For everyone.
For weeks, media analysts have been predicting that, sooner or later, the Faux Officials are going to cost a team a game. And, just as predicted, Monday night, it happened. To my team. The Green Bay Packers. The local Packer Coven convened at my house. We made a pot of Boars Head frankfurters and called it dinner. We watched our boys in green and gold come clawing back from a terrible first half.
Then it happened. Last play of the game. Our opponents threw a desperation “Hail Mary” into the end zone. The Whistle Heard Round the World. The Call That Spilled One Thousand Beers. The Touchdown That Will Live In Infamy.
Not a “could have gone either way” judgment call, but a call so obvious that even other players from other teams around the league were “tweeting” in one voice how absurdly wrong the call w as.
Packer offensive lineman T.J. Lang used the “F” word in what can only be called a “negative” way in describing the unofficial officials. Then he dared Roger Goodell to fine him “and use the money to pay the regular officials.” I’m sure T.J. will have the first half of his wish granted.
Packer wide receiver Greg Jennings eschewed the “F” word in favor of toothsome irony. He just kept repeating what a nice job the officials did. Over and over. Even when the reporter asked him if he was being sarcastic. He explained his irony ironically.
My friend texted me from out-of-state: “I’m very angry and I HATE the Packers.” (My friend always couches his justice issues in sharp perspective.)
So, what to do with unfairness?
I know it’s cliché, but life is unfair. Those of us who are passionate about issues of justice and fairness begin each day knowing we fight a battle we will regularly lose. Not all injustices can be righted. Not in football. Not in life. Meaning and self-respect are found in the willingness to keep fighting, to keep standing up for what’s right, to never give up - not in winning or losing the battles. The first thing and most important thing we can do with unfairness is to accept that it is bigger than we are. It will regularly have its way.
But, Monday night, as we emptied our playbooks of colorful metaphors in protest, I remembered another strategy for managing unfairness: You can put it in perspective by recalling times when you have benefited from unfairness.
Yeah, I watched the “victorious” Seattle Seahawks and their coach dancing around like they just won the Super Bowl. I thought, “I wonder what it’s like for them. Isn’t this hollow for them? What’s it like for (wide receiver) Golden Tate to deny, with a straight face, what the camera so obviously depicts?”
Then I remembered the Green Bay Packers dancing around in 1965. Kicker Don Chandler kicked a field goal in overtime to beat the Baltimore Colts and advance the Packers to the championship game. But, ask around about the field goal Chandler “made” in the closing moments of regulation that sent the game into overtime.
I’ve seen it on film. It is obviously, utterly wide right. And the referees raised their arms to the sky and called it good.
The Packers danced. Just like the Seahawks danced Monday night. Then-Packer quarterback Bart Starr, to this day, insists that kick was good. The only shred of justice the Colts ever got was the NFL’s inferential confession the following year: It painted all the goalposts bright yellow and raised the height of the vertical bars.
Justice and injustice, fairness and unfairness, are often as capricious as the dice on a craps table. When an innocent child dies from an unintended ricochet in a drive-by shooting, the grieving parents will rightly lament the death as “so unfair.” Of course it’s unfair. But no less unfair is that the classmate standing right next to the deceased isn’t dead.
So, if consistency matters to me, I have to “savor” the 1965 Packer title with a wince and blush. Only from there do I earn the right to be unabashedly outraged by Monday night’s end-zone idiocy.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.