Have no fear, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens fans with expanded cable packages: The NFL referee lockout is over, ending months of replacement referee madness just in time for Thursday Night Football. The news first broke Wednesday, when Twitter exploded with rumors about the impending end of a lockout that had seemed impenetrable just the day before.
Twitter good samaritans did their best to throw cold water on rumors that rapidly overheated, but it turns out that the original mystery sources were right: The NFL and referees were within hours of agreeing to an eight-year deal that gradually ramps up salary and transitions to a defined-contribution pension plan.
Now, phase two of the NFL referee lockout saga begins—get ready, Browns and Ravens fans, to hyperfocus on every single mistake the even-wealthier union referees make. Revisionist columnists with an eye for pageviews are no doubt already writing ledes for their stories about how we overemphasized the replacement referees' mistakes and romanticized our past with Ed Hochuli and company. The first botched pass interference call, the first missed fumble—it's going to be a media feeding frenzy.
But at least it probably won't come as early as it would have last Thursday.