Football fans were rejoicing Thursday that the NFL's real officials were going to be back on the field for the evening's midweek matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Replacement officials hired by the NFL during a lockout of the regular officials had endured increasing criticism over a long list of what appeared to be bad calls.
Early arrivals at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium gave a rousing cheer to the game's seven officials, led by referee Gene Steratore, as they took the field before Thursday night's kickoff.
Once news got out that the lockout had been resolved, NFL fans on Twitter let fly with some ref-fueled humor:
Some were less charitable:
Even CNN's own Don Lemon got in on the act:
The opening kickoff and first series of plays by the Browns went off without a hitch or a flag, though the NFL Network's TV broadcast inadvertently indicated a penalty on the first play from scrimmage.
The first real penalty of the came came at 12:19 of the first quarter, an illegal contact call against Cleveland. The Baltimore crowd roared, and referee Steratore appeared to have a small smirk on his face.
A holding call against Baltimore 59 seconds later was met with almost no reaction from the crowd, and Cleveland declined the penalty to force the Ravens to punt.
Two more penalties on Baltimore's next offensive series drew a few boos, but it was hard to say whether the jeers were directed at the officials or at the sloppy Ravens.
The first review of a call came with 5:07 remaining in the first, when Cleveland punt returner Joshua Cribbs fumbled and lost his helmet on a hard hit by Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. The play was ruled a fumble, but that call could have been reversed if it were determined that the helmet came off before Cribbs dropped the ball. The call was confirmed on review.
And even though the replacement refs are gone, their fake Twitter feed lives on: