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A devastated Ed Hochuli: 'I failed miserably'

NFL referee Ed Hochuli, whose blown call cost the San Diego Chargers their game Sunday at Denver, is devastated by his mistake and has personally apologized to Chargers fans.

"I'm getting hundreds of emails - hate mail - but I'm responding to it all. People deserve a response," Hochuli wrote to fans, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

Affecting the outcome of a game is a devastating feeling. Officials strive for perfection - I failed miserably. Although it does no good to say it, I am very, very sorry."

"You can rest assured that nothing anyone can say can make me feel worse than I already feel about my mistake on the fumble play. You have no idea.

An early whistle by Hochuli negated a fumble by Denver QB Jay Cutler that San Diego recovered at its 10 with 1:14 to go and the Broncos driving. San Diego led at the time, 38-31, and wound up losing, 39-38. After reviewing the play, Hochuli said that it was a fumble but by rule an early whistle on a fumble by a quarterback blows the play dead regardless of who recovered, so Denver kept the ball.

NFL supervisor of officials Mike Pereira said in the NFL Network that:

"I've tried to be as supportive as I can, but he's devastated - as he should be. He is a consummate professional who's refereed in this league for 17 years and he hates to make any mistake. So when you add a mistake of this magnitude, at this particular junction of the game, it's been really hard on him. We've talked probably seven or eight times since that game, and my whole goal is to try to get him back to get on the horse and work again this weekend.

I feel bad for Hochuli, whom Outsports readers and NFL announcers love for his impressive physique. He clearly made a mistake and admitted it minutes later while looking at the replay. However, the stupid "inadvertent-whistle rule" gave him no choice but to award the ball to Denver. Had the fumble occurred on a running play, the ball would have been awarded to the recovering team. The NFL needs to change the rule ASAP and not wait until after the season.

I agree with San Diego columnist Tim Sullivan, who called Hochuli "more victim than villain."

The NFL's most muscular referee can not undo the decisive error he made Sunday in Denver, but he has handled the fallout with such candor and contrition that his crisis management should be taught in our classrooms.

He has told the truth, even though it's embarrassing. He has taken responsibility, even though his job could be in jeopardy. He has done what many of us preach but fail to practice.

Maybe he did not have much choice in the matter, but Ed Hochuli has taken the high road at the lowest point of his officiating career. ...

The Chargers lost a game as the direct result of Hochuli's error, but how much higher a price is a man's peace of mind? How many of us don't harbor some lasting regret over a momentary, unintentional lapse that can't be corrected? Who among us has not failed in the pursuit of perfection?

I'd ask for a show of hands, but Jesus Christ is not a subscriber.