NFL referee controversy: Should the Monday Night Football gaffe count in fantasy?

Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Seahawks defeated the Packers on Monday Night Football after replacement referees awarded a phantom touchdown to Golden Tate as time expired. The NFL has defended the referees' decision, but should it count in your fantasy football league?

The Seattle Seahawks found themselves down five points on the final snap of Monday night's game, needing a miracle to defeat the Green Bay Packers. Russell Wilson took a shotgun snap at the 29-yard line and scrambled past the 40 under pressure before scooting to the 39 to launch the ball towards a wall of Packers defenders obscuring Golden Tate. Safety M.D. Jennings put two hands on the ball, clutched it to his chest, and fell on top of Tate, who clawed and scratched at Jennings' arms but to no apparent avail. To one back judge and millions of television viewers, Jennings had just sealed the game for the Packers with an interception.

Except that the line judge didn't see it that way. With perhaps the clearest view of anyone on the field, he ruled touchdown, giving the Seahawks six points and the win. The play went to official replay review and, inexplicably, was not overturned, in what may go down as one of the worst blown calls in NFL history.

Someone, somewhere, had no choice but to update the official boxscore with the game's final stats. The Seahawks finished with 238 yards of total offense and 14 points, and the Packers were not credited with an interception. In my fantasy football league, one team started Green Bay's defense and lost by three points to a team it should have beaten by one. With money on the line, our commissioner, and thousands of others, will have to make the difficult decision whether or not to allow Monday's miracle to stand.

The "Team D/ST" slot is often an afterthought on fantay football teams. In a tight game, however, it can make all the difference. In this case, what should have been three fantasy points became one when the Packers gave up 14 points instead of seven. The play became a four-point swing factoring in the overruled two-point interception. Buddy No. 1 lost 96-93, dropping to 0-3 while Buddy No. 2 improved to 3-0. For reference, there are just four playoff spots available in the ten-team league.

"Play it as it lies" is a necessary pillar of all professional organized sports (with some exception made for official replay reviews). Players and coaches must accept, for example, that the turf can bounce the ball, by chance, in favor of one team over another, and that a referee's judgment is absolute even if incorrect. Without a third party, games would devolve into pick-up basketball-style bickering over the "right" call. Blown calls are an unfortunate, but unavoidable side effect of the human element necessary in every sport.

There is no complex web of bureaucracy lording over fantasy leagues, however. Commissioners don't have to accept the NFL-sanctioned result of Monday's game, and are free to adjust scoring on the fly, by way of democracy or iron fist. Perhaps they should, in this case. It'd be the fair thing to do.

Then again, fantasy football has never been about what's fair. It wasn't fair when Calvin Johnson didn't get credit for his game-winning "catch" against the Bears in 2010. It wasn't fair that Tom Brady tore his ACL in the 2008 season opener, squashing fantasy hopes before they even began. If we cared about what was fair and sensible, we wouldn't devour mock drafts and plop money on a fantasy team that will be derailed the second Darren McFadden is tackled funny. Perhaps Monday should be counted among the thousands of other possible possible misfortunes we accept every year we sign up to play.

There is only one wrong answer in this situation, and that's the one that gave the Seahawks a win at CenturyLink Field on Monday. Fortunately, "play it as it lies" applies just as well to a referee's decision as it does to the unassailable truth of a leather ball resting in the hands of an opportunistic Packers safety with the game clock reading zeroes.

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