Beyond Golf — 27 September 2012 by Jim Street
All NFL fans owe Easley a ‘Thank you’

For the time being, Lance Easley has his own Wikipedia page, but that apparently is questionable – just like his ruling on the final play of Monday night’s NFL game between the Seahawks at Packers in Seattle.

I checked out his new claim to fame and for the first time ever, I saw this disclaimer: This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedia’s deletion policy. Please share your thoughts on the matter at this article’s entry on the Articles for deletion page. Feel free to edit the article, but the article must not be blanked, and this notice must not be removed, until the discussion is closed. For more information, particularly on merging or moving the article during the discussion, read the Guide to deletion.

My guess is that Easley would like for it to be deleted. But even if that happens, he will be remembered forever as the person who virtually ended the NFL’s lockout of its referees, a labor mess that lasted a month of pre-season games and three weeks of the regular season.

But I think every fan – including those in the cheese state of Wisconsin – should send Mr. Easley a thank-you note to where he works – Bank of America, 300 Town Center East, Santa Maria, Calif.

He needs our love.

Not that you need your memory to be refreshed, but on the final play of the game in which Easley was a side judge, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a Hail Mary pass into the end zone intended for wide receiver Golden Tate. Both Tate and Packers defender M. D. Jennings got their hands on the ball while wrestling for possession. Easley ruled it a touchdown, while back judge Derrick Rhone-Dunn simultaneously ruled it an interception and a touchback. Eventually Rhone-Dunn and Easley ruled that Tate and Jennings had simultaneous possession, which counts as a reception. Upon review by instant replay officials, it was determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the touchdown call.

Prior to the catch, Tate shoved Packers cornerback Sam Shields with both hands, which the NFL later acknowledged should have drawn an offensive pass interference penalty that would have negated the touchdown and resulted in a Packers victory.

When asked about the call in an interview with TMZ days later, Easley stood by his ruling, saying “It was the correct call.” When asked why it wasn’t an interception, he said, “You have to not only have the ball but have either two feet or a body part on the ground, and that never happened.” He later added, “Put any other official who knows the rules and they would make the same call.”

Easley has not been quoted since and apparently has 1) left the country or 2) entered a witness protection program.

I feel bad for the guy, who has some refereeing experience. Prior to being hired as a replacement official, Easley had 11 years of officiating experience for high school and junior college basketball and football games in the Central Coast region of California. He probably just wanted to do what he could to help the NLF have a full season.  

Any avid football fan probably would try to do the same thing Easley did — get a part-time gig that paid well and had nice benefits. I mean, not just anyone can rub elbows with the likes of Peyton Manning. 

But from what saw from the replacement refs, ALL of them were capable of making a call just as bad as the one Easley didn’t make (offensive pass interference) or the one he did (completion) in Monday night’s thriller.

The bizarre ending in Seattle got something accomplished and the real refs are now back on the job and they, too, should thank Mr. Easley. Mark my word, the real refs will make mistakes down the road, but I doubt if any of them get their own page on Wikipedia the way Easley did.

As for the rest of us, we should say – THANK YOU!!!!

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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