Jim Tunney officiated professional football games for a little more than three decades before retiring in 1991. I’ve watched pro football and college football for roughly 50 years, and if anyone asked me to name just one football official, Tunney’s name would be the first to come to mind.

After watching the officiating crew of the AFC championship game outflag and outwhistle one team in favor of the other, 98-10, on Sunday, Jan. 21, I thought of Tunney, who sure didn’t appear to care who won the games he was working.

That didn’t seem to be the case in the New England Patriots’ come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were penalized for 98 total yards, while the Patriots had one flag for 10 yards on a special teams play, no less.

According to NFL Research, this was the fewest penalties called on one team in a playoff game since the 2011 AFC Championship – when, again, the Patriots had only one penalty against the Baltimore Ravens.

There’s an old saying in football that any honest referee will tell you: Holding could be called on almost every play. While I’m not advocating that, it would be nice to see the games decided by the players on the field. In the final moments of the first half of the AFC title game, the Jaguars watched a 14-3 lead (with the ball and an apparent first down) turn into a 14-10 halftime score as the refs’ laundry littered the playing field.

With a season of well-deserved low attendance, low TV ratings and knee-takers, the last thing the league could have wanted was a Super Bowl without Patriots QB Tom Brady, the face of the NFL.

Brady will retire as the best NFL quarterback of all time by most standards. But his team isn’t so perfect that the only penalty supposedly committed came on a kickoff. Not one penalty called against the New England offense or defense? Those Patriots really must take the rules seriously. After their retirement, I suspect many will become NFL officials.

By the way, on Jim Tunney’s website (http://www.jimtunney.com), the former ref shares this from an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“The summer after the Oakland Raiders won the NFL championship, Tunney worked a preseason game and noticed coach John Madden’s Super Bowl ring. Tunney had worked that Super Bowl. ‘I don’t understand. What’s the difference?’ Tunney asked Madden. ‘You get a ring with all those diamonds and I get a crummy watch.’

“Madden replied: ‘Because you don’t care who wins.’ Tunney understood perfectly. And that’s been his credo: Coaching is a business of winning and losing. The business of an official is impartial judgment.’”

At least it should be.

* * *

The name of one of my favorite former National Review columnists, Ramesh Ponnuru, popped up in an email today from Sen. Rob Portman’s office.

Writing for Bloomberg, Ponnuru expressed his support for Portman’s End Government Shutdowns Act. The legislation was introduced last year by the Ohio lawmaker in order to avoid the types of federal government shutdowns like the one we’ve just experienced – and that’s still not settled.

Ponnuru writes: “Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio has been trying for years to enact such a law. During the last shutdown, in 2013, he got a floor vote on an amendment for an automatic continuing resolution. If no appropriations bill were signed into law, the affected programs would keep running at their existing spending levels for the next 120 days. If no bill had passed by then, spending would be cut by 1 percent. Another 1-percent cut would be made every 90 days after that.”

Portman’s bipartisan End Government Shutdowns Act would create an automatic continuing resolution (CR) for any regular appropriations bill not completed by the Oct. 1 deadline. As noted, after the first 120 days, CR funding would be reduced by 1 percent and would be reduced by 1 percent again every 90 days thereafter until Congress does its job and completes the annual appropriations process.

The bill would ensure:

• No more government shutdowns that create chaos for citizens who depend on federal services and cost taxpayers billions of dollars;

• Stability and predictability for government agencies, which will be able to plan their budgets based on a default appropriations level; and

• Restraining government spending by maintaining and gradually reducing funding when Congress does not act.

To his credit, Sen. Portman has introduced this legislation in every Congress since he was first elected to the United States Senate in 2010. In my opinion, it remains one of the senator’s (and former congressman’s) more pragmatic proposals – and he’s introduced many over the years, including one or two that I still agree with even though he no longer supports them.

With a solid House majority – and narrow Senate majority – plus a Republican presidency, common sense ought to prevail in passing Portman’s End Government Shutdowns Act.

But even this old Ridgerunner is smart enough to know why Rob’s righteous regulation is rejected. Cut spending? Even by 1 percent? In The Swamp? The left wouldn’t hear of it, and half of the so-called right wouldn’t support it.

These are many of the same people (not unlike those in Columbus) who maintain that a budget reduction in the increase in spending is in actuality a budget cut. You just can’t argue with that Swampwater Kool Aid logic. Washington doesn’t cut spending.

The good senator from Ohio could get the bill passed unanimously by changing one word: After the first 120 days, CR funding would be increased by 1 percent and would be increased by 1 percent again every 90 days thereafter until Congress does its job and completes the annual appropriations process.

I think I may have written my second piece of government regulation that has a real chance at becoming law.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.