Another case for professional NFL officials

“Right now I’m just trying to keep my life together. It’s really difficult.” – Lance Easley
Lance EasleyRemember back to the NFL referee strike of 2012? Do you happen to remember a play called the “Fail Mary?” For one man, Lance Easley, both the strike and the play will forever be ingrained into the fabric of his life. From the outside, for many of us who sit on our various coaches on Sundays, it is hard for us to imagine what happened to Lance Easley. I just hope the NFL remembers his story and helps him out from time to time.
In an article written by Brandon Schlager for Sporting News entitled: “Ref responsible for ‘Fail Mary’ suffers from PTSD, severe depression,” we remember Lance Easley in clear detail.
“You might remember Lance Easley, who famously signaled for a touchdown when Golden Tate and M.D. Jennings simultaneously wound up with the ball in the end zone during a game between the Packers and Seahawks on ‘Monday Night Football.’ Seattle won the game and the photo of Easley’s upright arms next to line judge, who made the exact opposite call, became the punch line to jokes about the NFL and its referee strike for months to follow.”
In truth, it was much more than a joke. Following the fan reaction to the call, Easley fell into post-traumatic stress disorder and is still fighting severe depression:
“He’s sought help via counseling and psychiatric centers, only to succumb to a pattern of relapses and suicidal thoughts. He and his wife of 28 years separated this year. His bout with PTSD includes constant panic attacks and a fear of leaving his house. He has taken a medical leave of absence from his job to deal with it all.”
Let’s reset the scene
The Monday night of the bad call (though Easley stands by his judgment), Easley was in his early 50s. He was not an NFL referee and was, of course, not a professional referee. To this day, the NFL still does not have full-time, professional referee.
He was the vice president of a bank and his football referee experience had been limited to high school and Division III collegiate games. He signed up to referee NFL games because the league was looking “for bodies” to enable the league to continue on with its multi-billion dollar product. Easley did not take the job because of the huge amounts of money they were throwing at the fill-in officials; he loves the game.
After he made the call, the “world” started to mock him and make fun of him. That was not enough. He started to receive death threats from idiot fans. The mockery didn’t go away; to this day, he remains a laughingstock.
“’It’s almost like a funeral,’” he told Yahoo! Sports in a lengthy feature on his life after the call. “’I felt like I didn’t want to be here anymore. I never acted on it. It was horrible to have those thoughts. I hated having those thoughts.’”
Why would so many people have reacted the way that they did?
If you would like, you can blame the gaming industry for that as well. According to statistical information, during the 2011-2012 season LEGAL wagering on NFL games through the casinos alone exceeded $3.2 billion. It keeps climbing. People do and say stupid things when they bet their mortgage money on a game and then lose it.
I have heard it said that the NFL would never have been as successful as it has been had not so much money been wagered on the outcomes of the game. In part, I think this observation is correct. A lot of money, millions of dollars of money, pass through hands for each game.
Why anyone would want to bet money on a game where the officials are high school referees? I guess it is their business. However, if money is lost because they placed their faith in replacement officials, it is also their business. The anger of the fans should have been directed toward the league, not some poor guy who was trying to do a job.
Lance Easley is working hard to rehabilitate his life. He should not have been slammed the way he was. He deserved better.

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