Mired in a contract stalemate with its referees, the National Football League decided to kick off the 2012 season with replacement officials.
The ensuing disaster, including missed or blown calls and general mayhem on the field, has left football fans across the country wondering, "Where the hell did they find these guys?"
The answer: from the Lingerie Football league, New Orleans Saints fan clubs, the real estate industry … and Bank of America.
The official at the center of perhaps the most controversial call of the season is in fact a vice president for small-business banking at B of A in California.
Lance Easley has worked at the bank since June 2011, according to his LinkedIn profile, and was a business banking specialist at Wells Fargo for nearly three years prior to that. A source at B of A confirmed Easley's title, but the company declined to comment further.
Easley was standing in the end zone during the final seconds of last night's Monday Night Football matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.
Seattle was down by five points as its quarterback, Russell Wilson, threw a Hail Mary pass down the field. Seattle receiver Golden Tate shoved a Green Bay defender out of the way and wrestled another for the ball.
It was initially unclear who caught the ball first, resulting in the controversial call captured in this now-infamous photo of one ref signaling an interception while Easley signaled a touchdown.
But instant replays showed that Tate should have been called for pass interference, which would have ended the game with a win for Green Bay. And everyone in the world — except, perhaps, for Seahawks fans and the NFL — believed the pass was intercepted by Green Bay.
(Full disclosure: My spouse is a minority owner in the Packers franchise. I bought him a single share during the team's public offering last year; it has no actual monetary value. Anyway, my heart belongs to Pat Patriot.)
After reviewing the play, the officials upheld the ruling on the field, and the NFL released a statement today backing up the touchdown ruling. Ref rage ensued.
So how is Easley qualified to officiate NFL games?
His LinkedIn profile lists him as the president of the Los Padres Officials Association. (That's high school basketball.) He is a well-known ref in the Santa Barbara area, where he officiates high school and junior college football and basketball games, according to a column in the Santa Maria Times newspaper.
Easley also attended the Stars and Stripes Academy for Football Officials, a three-day training academy for aspiring college officials, earlier this year, according to a statement posted on the academy's website Tuesday morning.
The academy said it did not provide any training in NFL rules, and was not aware that Easley planned to become a replacement official.
"Although Mr. Easley received three days of college football training at the 2012 SASA, the Academy does not claim responsibility for Mr. Easley's successes or perceived failures as an official," the statement said.
After the beating he took on the Internet, in the newspapers and on talk radio this morning, we imagine Easley is eager to get back to his day job.