SEATTLE – Several hours after the completion of one of the more memorable games in Monday Night Football history, Marshawn Lynch was sitting in a private room in the back of the Metropolitan Grill, celebrating a thrilling, last-second victory with friends and family members over big steaks and fat lobsters.
Then, with the flick of a remote control, Big Brother appeared and left a rancid taste in the Seattle Seahawks halfback's mouth.
As Lynch watched Packers safety M.D. Jennings snatch the pass out of the sky and pull it to his chest while Tate, who had blatantly pushed off against Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields, belatedly latched on one arm at a time, the running back's eyes grew big and his jaw dropped low. The room was dead silent as the realization gripped Lynch and his companions: Like most of the viewing public, they now understood that the Seahawks had received an extraordinary gift from the replacement officials.
"We didn't win that game," someone at the table said, and nobody made a peep to challenge him.
By the time Lynch left the restaurant early Tuesday morning and, while waiting for his ride to arrive, reassured a group of Packers fans on Second Avenue almost apologetically that their team would bounce back from this bitter defeat, it was clear the league's already problematic officiating lockout had reached critical mass.
Dramatic as it may sound, it's quite possible that history will look back on Tate's illusory jump-ball touchdown as the moment the NFL jumped the shark.
The outcry over the replacement officials' game-deciding call (and the failure of the non-replacement replay officials to overturn it) crystallized the brewing anger toward NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners he represents, whose collective insistence upon securing a favorable contract with the regular officials has clearly compromised the game's integrity.
The bottom line...The Packers won that game.