Suddenly, Bill Belichick has friends across the country. Overnight, the Green Bay Packers find they have a nation of football fans behind them.

The laconic New England Patriots football coach and the NFL’s iconic team became your proxies over the weekend. Three weeks into the new season, their disgust at the league’s use of replacement officials is your disgust. Their anger is your anger.

The emotions boiled over twice.

On Sunday night, when the Baltimore Ravens beat the Patriots on a last-second field goal that Belichick questioned, he couldn’t get an explanation from the refs fleeing the scene. So he reached out to one. Belichick could face a substantial fine for the physical contact.

On Monday Night Football, the Packers lost after the replacement officials ignored an obvious penalty and then got the winning touchdown catch wrong. All in the closing seconds.

A Seattle Seahawks receiver did push the Green Bay defensive back away from the ball in the end zone — something that’s a penalty but isn’t reviewable. The Seattle receiver, Golden Tate, caught the pass. Or did M.D. Jennings, a defensive back, have possession?

One official ruled catch, the one standing next to him ruled something else. Jennings was on his back, clutching the football to his chest. Tate was also clutching the football.

After some discussion, Seattle was awarded the touchdown and the victory. The howling started immediately and hasn’t stopped, more than 24 hours later.

The NFL reviewed the play on Tuesday and issued a statement, concluding with seven words: “The result of the game is final.”

Judging by Tuesday’s tempest of tweets, texts, stories and talk radio vitriol, very little is final. In a society that can’t agree anymore on anything, there’s unanimity on this: Using replacement officials for NFL games is intolerable. The arrogance of Commissioner Roger Goodell in turning a blind eye to the situation is amazing.

It makes an older generation remember the line from the Peter Finch character in “Network,” a 1976 movie: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

We have political gridlock in Washington, a president who hasn’t met expectations and a presidential challenger who’s liked even less. Gas prices are high again, the Taliban hasn’t gone away and the stock market is riding the playground see-saw.

The NFL was your oasis, especially in New England after the Red Sox imploded. When it was all good, you cheered; when it was all bad, you booed. And anticipated the next weekend’s games.

Now, as long as the replacements work, every game can become a train wreck. That’s getting very old.

Many of you blame the real officials. The NFL locked them out this summer after its part-time employees wouldn’t accept give-backs. Among other things, the NFL wants to move away from pensions in favor of 401(k) plans.

Sounds familiar. Except in this labor situation, the refs had some leverage: their unique skills. In the past three weeks, you’ve come to understand how unique.

Sure, real refs earn three times what I earn in a year working full time. But they’re part of a sports business that makes billions. Don’t think they’re really a drag on the NFL’s bottom line.

When you see a top touring act at the State Theatre in Portland, you don’t want the sound man to be a kid more accustomed to working with his neighborhood garage band.

When you’re in surgery, you want to think the anesthesiologist is the best.

NFL coaches can’t coach and NFL players can’t play to their capabilities because replacement refs can’t keep up with the speed of the game.

You watch to feed your pro football addiction. You can’t not watch. You can’t give up your tickets. Unlike Peter Finch’s character, you might be mad, but you’ll probably take it.

My suggestion? Contribute to a fund that should be started to pay Belichick’s fine or Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ fine — he aired his opinion Tuesday afternoon — and anyone else who gets slapped by Goodell’s office.

Doesn’t matter that they can pay. They’re your proxies in this fight.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveSolloway


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