If you saw the final two minutes of Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints, you saw (several times) an obvious missed call of both pass interference and head-to-head contact which would have (almost certainly) handed the football game and victory to the New Orleans Saints.
If the call had been made, the Saints would have retained the football with a first down inside the ten yard line. The Saints would have run the fourth quarter clock down to under twenty seconds and attempted a field goal from extra point distance (95% chance of success) to win the game 23-20.
Inexplicably, the referees overlooked the obvious penalties on the third down Saints passing play. The Saints kicked a field goal and handed the ball back to the Rams with enough time to drive for their own game-tying field goal.
In overtime, the Rams prevailed by three points and moved onto the Super Bowl to play the New England (this is a recording) Patriots.
Let’s focus on the play again.
The current rules of the NFL only allows a head coach to throw the “challenge” flag to force a video review in order to overturn a specific ruling on the field.
In this case, if no call was made by the officials, Saints head coach, Sean Payton, cannot challenge a call which wasn’t made on the field.
It won’t make it any easier for Saints fans (count me as one) to accept this incredible dereliction of duty by the officiating crew when you learn that:
- The head referee for the Saints/Rams game (Bill Vinovich) said, “I personally haven’t seen the play”. Translated, that means “I haven’t been instructed by my employer (the NFL) on what I should or shouldn’t say at this time. I really like my high paying job, and I’d really like to keep it”.
- The flagship radio station for the New Orleans Saints reported that two of the officials (including the referee closest to the actual play) are from (you guessed it) the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
- There was no attempt made by the officials on the field to discuss this matter and change the call prior to the next play being run by the Saints. The head referee can and should have stopped the game for a consultation if he really wanted to understand why no flag was thrown in this situation.
In professional wrestling, the outcomes of matches are predetermined. Both the participants and the referees are paid by their employer to maintain the appearance of an honest match even though the match has a scripted outcome.
Professional wresting calls this “Kayfabe” (translated – act like it isn’t fake, but do what your employer tells you).
Let’s now apply this to officiating in other professional sports such as the NFL.
The officials are hired by the NFL, paid by the NFL, and selected by the NFL for their assignment to work certain football games.
If you are the NFL, how do you explain that you sent two officials who reside in the Los Angeles area to officiate the Saints/Rams game?
Couldn’t you have sent these two highly qualified (cough, cough) officials to referee the Kansas City/New England game instead?
Here’s another convenient excuse you may hear about referees. How many times do you hear that the officials (football or basketball) were simply “letting them play” and preferred not to interfere in the outcome of the game’s final moments?
I am not a professional referee, but I did have the chance to referee a variety of youth sports (for pay) when in college and, for a little extra money, after taking my first professional job.
In my opinion, a good referee calls the game consistently all the time.
A good umpire calls balls and strikes the same way for the entire game to give both sides a consistent outcome. A good basketball referee calls fouls on players the same way from the opening tipoff to the final whistle for consistency.
A good football referee should be attentive to his or her assigned area and be consistent for the entire game.
Though I might be wrong on this statement, the head football referee (FYI – that’s the guy wearing the white hat, ironically) cannot allow the fans, instant replay, angry coaches/players, or other outside factors influence a call (or non-call) on the field of play.
HOWEVER, the head referee does have the discretion to briefly call a time-out (prior to the start of the next play in 40 seconds) to bring the other officials together to make sure that they haven’t overlooked anything obvious on the previous play. For example, the closest official may have tripped on the play and asked for help with the call by the other officials.
The goal of the head referee is to get each play right. That means from the opening kickoff to the final whistle in football.
In the Saints/Rams game, the NFL’s assigned head referee in this game maintained he didn’t see the key play that everyone in attendance and millions at home saw. The closest official to the play didn’t see a penalty (cough, cough).
The play clock ran its allotted 40 seconds of time. Too late now, Saints fans!
Those ARE the current rules, you know (wink, wink).
What a crock.
The NFL is to blame for this.
They will surely apologize to Saints fans (“Sorry, 40-year old Drew Brees, but you just missed a chance to play in another Super Bowl”!), and the NFL owners will promise to review this “horrible situation” during the off-season while they are tabulating revenues.
In the meantime, the NFL will get their dream Super Bowl television ratings bonanza pitting the evil East coast Empire of New England against the new West coast darlings from Los Angeles (who just happen to be building a multi-billion dollar stadium to house their beloved Rams).
The NFL is sorry if your team happens to be from fly-over country in New Orleans and Kansas City. Better luck next year!
It’s just too bad that the NFL (and, to be fair, the NBA) isn’t as honest as the WWE at admitting that the paid officiating crews are not necessarily unbiased at all times.
Especially if a tight game could be swayed into the “preferred” outcome for the wallets of the league’s owner$, that is.
Super Boycott, anyone? Come join me!