CHICAGO | Professional football is not to be laughed at, even if you're Jacksonville or Cleveland.
But around the league, like bad sunburn, there are guffaws and snickers radiating from the ongoing NFL officials lockout.
It actually hurts to watch inept replacements who should be working Valparaiso University games.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, haven't you seen enough? This is Bambi in a bull ring; Mr. Bean singing a Broadway lead.
Instead of having the NFL's 17 officiating crews working and preserving order on the field, we have Bozo's Circus with groans, not laughs.
You've heard about the horror stories with these replacements. You've probably witnessed several slipups, blown calls and wrong interpretations while throwing pillows at your TV.
It's been reported games are running nearly 25 minutes longer because of all the discussion and reviews and confusion among replacement officials, who simply don't know the rules that well.
There have been extra timeouts given to teams driving the football.
Spot placement in games has been inconsistent.
Scab officials have been removed when it was learned they were big fans of specific teams. One guy even had a personal website devoted to his team. Another worked for an NFL franchise.
By now, you're familiar with the arguments for ending this silly lockout: A serious injury looming, a blown call affecting a team's playoff chances, coaches and/or players simply “losing it” on a questionable call and creating an ugly scene.
Coaches and players have been warned by Goodell not to comment publicly on the lockout or caliber of officiating, so as to not ridicule or upstage them.
Sunday's Bears-Rams game was not above such folly.
The opening quarter took 50 minutes because of countless flags and second-guessing by the zebras.
In one hysterical sequence, Cortland Finnegan intercepted the Bears' Jay Cutler at the Rams' 22, returned it to Chicago's 46, then appeared to have fumbled during a shoestring tackle by Cutler.
Devin Hester recovered the ball and took off as whistles blew and time had to be called.
Finally, after much deliberation while the Soldier Field crowd of 60,197 booed, and the press box erupted in laughter, it was ruled Finnegan was down by contact.
“St. Louie gets the ball at the Chicago 46!” screamed referee Jerry Hughes, adding to the guffaws and snickers.
Where was the band and chorus line?
“Officiating never changes the way you play,” said strong safety Major Wright, whose 45-yard touchdown interception return in the fourth quarter iced the game. “You should always play however you prepared that week.
“You gotta keep playing hard, play through the whistle. If you're looking over your shoulder and worrying about the refs, you're gonna miss the play you're supposed to make.”
Asked to grade Sunday's crew, Wright declined.
“It was shaky, but we can't control that,” he said. “All we can do is go out there and play ball.”
And so, in desperation, we turn once again to Roger Goodell and borrow a famous line from Jay Cutler: “Please, please, please ...”
End this nonsense.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org