Lance Easley and keeping an eye on the ball

So on Sunday, Lance Easley made his previously reported appearance as a celebrity umpire in a charity softball tournament organized by Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

Photographs circulated of Easley and Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, who caught the disputed "Fail Mary" pass that gave the Seahawks a Week 3 victory over the Green Bay Packers last season. Many of us also learned that Easley has written a book about the call, the repercussions and lessons learned on how to live with your decisions.

And from what I could see Sunday night on Twitter, Packer Nation erupted. Again.

@TannerSmith47 tweeted that "this is like a surgeon operating on the wrong limb and trying to become a celebrity." @HelpIamaCabbage added: "Reflects poorly on @realLanceEasley that he's making money off this rather than humbly admitting his mistake." @DaveyPinstripes called the scene "despicable."

There is no doubt that Sherman's courting of Easley -- he sent a private jet to whisk him to the game, according to Easley's Facebook page -- implies a level of thanks for helping the Seahawks win more than it does a show of support for an embattled official. And it sure feels like Easley is helping to twist the knife with photographs such as the one with Tate below.

But let's not allow this episode to cloud the waters of blame and free market. The NFL office bears full responsibility for the mess that put Easley in position to make the call.

Sunday night on Twitter, I compared it -- somewhat hastily -- to an NFL team signing a Division III quarterback and then losing a game on his key mistake. Who deserves blame? The unqualified quarterback who had been assured by the team he could handle the job? Or the team itself?

The league's attempt to use replacement officials as leverage in a labor dispute was arrogant from the start and failed miserably. Easley and his compatriots were earnest but miscast and put in an impossible situation.

The loss impacted the Packers' playoff seeding and cost them a first-round bye in the playoffs, but let's not hold Easley responsible for that. Easley might not have kept his eye on the ball, but we can in a figurative sense. You might argue with his decision to capitalize on it, but ultimately the market will determine his success.

I don't think anyone wants to hear his justification for making the call, although it's here in a Tacoma News Tribune blog post if you're interested. But if his message moving forward is about handling fallout from the split-second decisions we all make every day, then maybe something good can eventually come from this mess.