The nation came together Tuesday morning over a collective outrage, an egregious injustice, a nationally televised attack upon all that is decent and fair in America.
It was Monday night's blown call by the NFL's replacement referees that cost the Green Bay Packers a victory against the Seattle
Seahawks on national television.
It also dearly cost those who had bet on the game. Las Vegas oddsmakers say $300 million or more changed hands worldwide on the controversial call giving Seattle a touchdown and a 14-12 win rather than an interception for Green Bay.
The Glantz-Culver line for the game opened favoring the Packers by 4?. Had the final play been ruled an interception -- as many players, analysts and fans believed was the right call -- Green Bay would have won by 5 points.
Well into Tuesday, the country aimed its anger directly at the NFL, the beloved behemoth of American sports franchises, over the blown call on the game's final play.
Three weeks' worth of criticism and angst over the subpar performances of the replacement referees, filling in for the regular ones who have been locked out by the NFL in a labor standoff, reached the boiling point Monday.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, normally a soft-spoken player who didn't say much after the loss, lashed out on his radio show Tuesday.
"First of all, I've got to do something that the NFL is not going to do: I have to apologize to the fans," he said on ESPN 540-AM in Milwaukee.
"Terrible," President Barack Obama told reporters in response to a question about the game's ending. "I've been saying for months, we've gotta get our refs back."
"DISGRACE!" screamed the back page of the New York Post.
"Nightmare scenario," blared the headline on the SportsIllustrated.com website.
"The Straw That Broke the NFL's Back," touted a headline at ESPN.com.
The NFL's locked-out referees, although technically part-time employees, undergo rigorous training to master the league's infamously complex rule book. Their replacements, largely a collection of officials who work high school and low-level college games, often have seemed out of their depth during the first weeks of the season. But no games had been blatantly decided on a blown call -- until Monday night.
With the Seahawks trailing, 12-7 and eight seconds remaining, quarterback Russell Wilson launched a 24-yard "Hail Mary" pass into the end zone. Packers safety M.D. Jennings appeared to wrest control of the ball from Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate -- an interception -- but one of the referees near the play signaled touchdown while another indicated interception. They eventually ruled that Tate had simultaneous possession with Jennings, which counts as a reception by the offensive player.
As players, coaches, fans and TV viewers waited anxiously, the referees reviewed replays for some 10 minutes -- and still got it wrong, saying Tate had shared possession of the ball, which, by rule, favors the offensive player.
The NFL acknowledged Tuesday that Tate should have been flagged for offensive pass interference on the play, which would have ended the game with a Packers victory. But NFL officials said the referee was correct that no indisputable visual evidence existed on a replay review to overturn the touchdown call, so the Seattle victory stood.
"The NFL is too good for this, too big for this," said ESPN analyst and former 49er quarterback Steve Young, who was at the game. "It's too hard to watch."