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It's official: Refereeing is a disaster for NFL

The idea behind this space was to provide opinions and insight on various topics in sports other than soccer - you're welcome - with off-beat anecdotes that take us away from mundane issues and congestion. Unfortunately, much like the Sabres in recent years, the NFL leaves me no choice.

By now, you've watched enough replays on the Green Bay-Seattle game in which the Packers safety M.D. Jennings picked off Russell Wilson's desperation pass that was ruled a game-winning touchdown for Seahawks receiver Golden Tate. One official signaled touchback, another signaled touchdown.

Together, they signaled trouble for Roger Goodell.

Side judge Lance Easley, plucked from the junior college ranks, also missed Tate pushing Sam Shields out of the way. The abomination merely trumped a terrible call in which Shields was flagged 32 yards for interference on the previous possession.

It pushed the ball deep into Green Bay territory, which led to a punt, which led to a short field for Seattle, which led to disaster for the league. Just like that, with 11 million people watching on television, the Seahawks won, 14-12.

Hail Mary, full of disgrace, the league is with the ... replacement officials. What do the Seahawks call this one, the Immaculate Interception? An estimated $150 million shifted the other way in Las Vegas. Look for television ratings to soar because people can't resist a train wreck.

Isn't this entertaining?

The NFL is getting what it richly deserves, a persistent carving from players, coaches and fans who are begging for the league to settle its dispute with veteran officials who are, well, less terrible.

I'll spare you the comments, but they sounded something like this: What the $.
This is what happens when the most powerful league in professional sports conducts itself like a small-time operation. Predictably, the NFL issued a prepared statement saying it supported not overturning the ruling on the field. (NOTE: Prepared statements reveal a lack of transparency and people looking to hide.)

The mess comes a few days after the NFL issued a memo to all 32 teams about mistreating officials, as executive VP Ray Anderson said, "to remind them that everyone has a responsibility to respect the game.'' Earth to Ray: Coaches and players are voicing their anger because, unlike the NFL, they do respect the game.

All this comes after a week in which: Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, less than 24 hours after his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident, had six catches for 127 yards and two TDs in a win over the Patriots. Lions backup Shaun Hill came off the bench to throw two TD passes, including a Hail Mary, in an 18-second span.

We're left talking about the refs.

>Two minutes for booking

If you're hankering for a hockey fix and an easy read, consider adding ""Breakaway'' to your list during the lockout. The 264-page book ($27.95), written by Montreal native Tal Pinchevsky, provides a peek behind the scenes of European players who defected to North America before the end of the Cold War.

The tale of former Sabres winger Alexander Mogilny's arrival in Buffalo is among the many anecdotes. Don Luce, the head of player development at the time, drove the getaway car after picking up Mogilny from a shopping mall in Stockholm.
Mogilny raced through a side exit, away from Russian officials trying to stop him.
"I was the wheel man so we tailed it out of there,'' Luce said. "It was a side door and not real well lit. We had the timing down so exactly at that time they would come out. They came out and jumped in the car and people came after them. I saw them in the mirror as we we're driving away.''

>Razorbacks fall back

Coach Bobby Petrino was booted for hiring his mistress as his secretary, an affair that was exposed when they were involved in an offseason motorcycle accident. Arkansas turned to former Michigan State and Louisville coach John L. Smith.

The Razorbacks, ranked fifth last season, have lost three straight games and are now clinging to slim hopes for a bowl game, any bowl game. Smith pleaded with reporters after a Sept. 15 loss to Alabama to lighten up.

"Get your chin up,'' Smith said. "Smile. Smile!''

On the same day he gave the "smile'' speech, his brother died. It gets worse. Smith is awaiting an appearance in bankruptcy court Oct. 12 after accumulating some $25.7 million in debt, most from bad real-estate investments, while showing $500 in his checking account. Somebody, please, give this man a hug.

>As the rotation turns

If you believe the Yankees' starting pitching is vulnerable going into the postseason, think again. Their rotation has mostly carried them to 10 wins of 12 games going into Tuesday's game against the Twins. In seven of those wins, the Yanks' starters allowed two earned runs or less.

Andy Pettitte, 40, doesn't have the stuff he had in 1996, but it looks that way. He pitched 11 straight scoreless innings in two starts after a three-month stint on the disabled list. Not-so-free speech

Red Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano was fined $250,000 by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last week for commenting on the lockout. What did that dastardly Jimmy D say when speaking to Island Sports News?

"The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle,'' he said. "The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That's the way its always been and that the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren't going to let a union push them around. It's not going to happen.''

If the truth costs $250,000, how much is a lie?

>Stats Inc.

12 - Consecutive seasons in which Albert Pujols, homerless in his first 27 games with the Angels, has hit 30 dingers or more. And to think he has just one in September.

337 - Eli Manning's passing yardage per game this season, or 107 yards more than his career average.

>Sound bites

Bobby Orr, during an appearance on CityTV's "Breakfast Television'' in Toronto, about Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr: "I know what I'd do with them. I'd put them in a room with bread and water and say, ‘Now you stay in there until you make a deal.' "


>Quick hits

*FOXSports senior golf writer Robert Lusetich clarified via email last week that he, not a reporter from The Guardian, spoke to Greg Norman about Tiger Woods being intimidated by Rory McIlroy. It was attributed here to the British newspaper, which (ahem) borrowed the quote for its story without giving credit to Lusetich.

*There must be more to Brian Moorman getting cut than his punting ability. He has been the Bills' most consistent player in the past decade. Last year, there was talk that he and Bills special teams coach Bruce DeHaven clashed personally and professionally.