For millions of NFL fans the refereeing lockout is already ancient history, with the right men in the middle having returned to police Sunday afternoons with an iron, and thankfully precise, fist.
Replacement officials rule Golden Tate scores the winning touchdown against Green Bay. (AP)Yet while that sorry epidemic of blown class and red-faced moments is a thing of the past, a Canadian man will always have cause to remember those few weeks of mayhem with nothing but fondness.
Gino DiFelice of Brantford, Ontario, turned a cheeky wager of $5 into the life-changing windfall of $725,254 when he correctly picked the outcome of 15 NFL games a week ago, with that 15th win coming courtesy of the highest-profile and most debated decision laid down by any of the stand-in refs.
When the substitute crew controversially ruled that the Seattle Seahawks' Golden Tate had scored a game-winning touchdown to beat the Green Bay Packers, DiFelice secured a payout big enough to fund a few referees' retirement plans.
As he collected his check from the Ontario gaming authority's headquarters, DiFelice didn't care that the majority of the viewing audience – the ones with functioning eyesight – believed the Packers' M.D. Jennings had secured a legitimate interception on the game's final play.
Neither was the lucky winner's delight tempered by the fact that it was his 12-year-old daughter who provided the expert analysis needed to secure the blockbuster check.
"When the play was under review I couldn't believe what was happening," he told reporters. "When the call was made, I went nuts. I ripped open the envelope.
"Every week I do a ticket with my picks and then I ask my kids who they like. I do one ticket each with their picks. The winner was the ticket my daughter consulted me on. The funniest part is, the ticket I made all of the picks myself, I only got four right.
"I watched the last 1:48 and that's about it. I couldn't watch the rest of the game."
Tales of big wins on football bets are nothing new, with the heavy-hitters of the gambling world putting their money where their mouth is each week on the Vegas line. However, DiFelice's win is extraordinary because of his relatively small outlay, now worth around $5.08 U.S. dollars thanks to last week's slump in greenback value.
Multi-game accumulators are allowed as part of the lottery system in Canada, with the money pooled together and distributed among any winners. DiFelice was the only winner that week and the payout was the third largest in the game's history.
"Players use a card that list the games in the NFL that week and they have the chance to pick who they think will win," a spokesman for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday. "The game has a 60-percent payout, so three dollars from every five goes into the prize pool. Obviously, the pool will be much bigger if there is a solo winner."
So while the replacement officials have gone back to, well, wherever they came from in the first place, they will be largely forgotten and occasionally ridiculed in moments of nostalgia. Except for in the home of Gino DiFelice, for whom the silliest call of the NFL season was mightily welcome.
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