The NFL has become a joke

I never thought these words would dribble from my lips: ďIím done with the NFL.Ē

The greatest team sport, with the largest weekly gathering of superior athletes the world has ever known, has deteriorated into an embarrassing punch line.

I donít need the frustration.

Monday night, the Seattle Seahawks cashed in a stolen lottery ticket.

Replacement referees have turned the game into a joke. Players have resorted to outright cheating, shoving opponents to gain obvious advantages, grabbing, holding, dishing out cheap shots all over the field because they can get away with it.

For a sport that has created so many memories over the years, I simply canít put up with the current product.

I will be back, no doubt. The NFL is such a splendid game.

Even as I watched MNF ó Monday Night Fiasco ó I confess that there was enjoyment. It was a very good football game. Physical, powerful play on defense, a gritty effort by a great quarterback, a rookie quarterback making plays, an enthusiastic crowd ó parts of the game were spectacular.

But whenever the flow of the game developed, a replacement referee changed the entire atmosphere. Drive-and-game-changing pass interference penalties, cheap shots, then penalized retaliations.

And of course the grand finale. A Hail Mary with divine intervention. Or rather, with replacement referee intervention. Will this Monday Night Fiasco get the regular referees back onto the field?

Thatís what fans have been asking from week after agonizing week. One horrendous call after another. Calls that affect the game, and now have altered the outcome.

Did Seattle receiver Goldon Tate have possession of the final pass? Of course he didnít. Lying on his back as Green Bayís M.D. Jennings had the ball clutched to his chest, Tate, who was under Jennings, had his arm reached around possibly ó yes, possibly ó touching the ball.

As the pass came floating in, Tate gave a two-handed whiplash-leveling shove to a Packersí defender, sending him sprawling to the field.

Advantage Tate.

Then one official signaled interception, the other signaled TD.

Advantage replacement referees.

TD Seattle.

Disadvantage Packers and every NFL fan in the world.

Regular referees are far from perfect but their replacements are more flawed than the Edsel.

Even Tate, obviously caught off guard by the question, offered this answer when asked if he even got his hands on the ball: ďI think so. ... Oh, well maybe he did. But I took it from him.Ē

Took it from him?

Cheating, lying, complaining, drama, back-stabbing, smirking ó the NFL has become the latest ridiculous reality show.

It was ruled a simultaneous reception. I have to believe that even Seahawksífans have a hard time buying that one.

Frustration has turned to anger for fans, players and coaches. But instead of getting the regular referees back on the field, the NFL is now handing out massive fines to any player or coach who dares let that frustration erupt and criticize the inferior level of refereeing.

The NFL has become a joke and it needs to be penalized.

For me, itís just time to look away. Itís too agonizing to watch.

I donít watch those irritating Kardashian women or any other raunchy reality show because theyíre absurd.

Now the NFL has devolved into the same category.

Maybe this Hail Mary will actually lead to the miraculous return of the regular referees.

Iím done. I will be back, the game is simply too good.

The 120 yards of rectangular utopia has long been a great source of enjoyment and pain. The pain of seeing my team lose Super Bowls, and the euphoria of seeing my team win.

Great plays by great athletes. It truly is the great game.

But not this year. And I donít plan to be frustrated and angered by the game that has become a joke.

Itís an inferior product because of those replacement referees.

The stars have been dimmed by the stripes.

I will be back because itís a great game. But for now, even the Kardashians have more appeal that the NFL.

And thatís no joke.