Three weeks after controversial call, replacement ref is back in Washington prep sports

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Less than a month ago, Jeff Sadorous was briefly in the eye of a media hurricane. On the final play of one of the most widely viewed "Sunday Night Football" games of all time, Sadorous had the final, decisive call of the game, the field judge ruling that Baltimore's Justin Tucker had hit a decisive field goal on the final play of the Ravens' Week 3 victory against the Patriots. The result was decisive, but the call was anything but, with the kick crossing above the right upright on a vertical plane, leaving whether the field goal was actually good or not in legitimate doubt.

Replacement referee Jeff Sadorous — Associated Press
Replacement referee Jeff Sadorous — Associated Press

Sadorous ruled that the kick was good. Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his players steadfastly disagreed. They charged in Sadorous' direction, and he trotted off the field before they could launch a significant rebuke, racing off into the sunset and right back onto a high school field. In the process, his disputable call was almost immediately obscured by a much more blatant error 24 hours later when Seattle topped Green Bay on the final play of "Monday Night Football." Less than a week later, the referee lockout was over.

Yes, Jeff Sadorous was a replacement referee. Yes, he made the leap from working games multiple levels below the pros, traditionally plying his trade in the Washington prep scene.

And yes, as documented in exquisite detail by the Seattle Times, Sadorous loved every minute of his brief stint in the world's most famous football league.

"It was the greatest reality show of all time," Sadorus, told the Times, "and I lived it."Are we going to go down in infamy or be notorious as replacement refs? I don't know. I don't worry too much about that. Things can return back to normal pretty quickly."

In Sadorus' case, that "normal" is serving as a referee for Washington high school games. He has been back at work in that capacity since the lockout of traditional NFL referees ended in the final days of September, and has performed with significantly less sideline consternation. He said that he's settled back into the life of an everyday high school official -- Sadorous claimed that his son's social life is suddenly more important than his side gig -- and that he has spent the rest of his time being a stay at home Dad.

Yet, for a fleeting minute, a man who will likely play out the rest of his career on small fields with total fan counts of 5,000 or fewer was in the center of a maelstrom involving some 70,000 fans, not to mention the media universe.

"Everyone wanted perfection, but come on: the last guy who was perfect they nailed to a cross. And he wasn't even an official. …

Sadorus' 17-year-old son, Kyle, said the only strange part was seeing his dad in a new position: In college Sadorus was a back judge, and in the NFL he was a field judge.

"People are saying you're enjoying your 15 minutes of fame," Sadorus said before heading to Shoreline Stadium. "But I'm just trying to give some perspective to a side that people might not know."

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