C'mon, NFL, really? February 9, 2013 [J.P.'s Moment of Common Sense on Broad View, KJFK 1230 AM Reno. Listen live Saturdays at 3:00 PM Pacific Time.]
You probably watched the Super Bowl last Sunday. This year's game had the third-most viewers in TV history, with an estimated 108 million people watching. If that number is correct, on Monday morning there were about 107 million people wondering what the hell is wrong with the NFL.
I mean c'mon, really? That was the worst officiating I've ever seen. The refs were so obviously in the tank for Baltimore it was like they didn't care about getting caught. I'm surprised John Gotti wasn't waiting on the sideline with bundles of cash neatly labeled with the refs' names.
This isn't sour grapes. Yes, I was semi-rooting for San Francisco because the coach played quarterback for my college... and yes, I lived in Reno during the Kaepernick years... and yes, it's true, I'm not a big fan of Ray "States Evidence" Lewis... but I don't really care who wins the Super Bowl because I live in Michigan, home of the Detroit Lions. The Super Bowl might as well be the Hunger Games for all the chance we have of participating.
I'm just saying anybody outside of Baltimore who watched the Super Bowl with the tiniest bit of objectivity could see it was rigged. The NFL brags about its security operation, but they're failing at their main job: protecting the integrity of the game. And I'm not Johnny-come-lately on this issue. Last year I wrote about the strange outcomes in the 2012 playoffs. Gambling is a pernicious influence on the integrity of any sport and anyone who thinks the Super Bowl can't be rigged needs to brush up on their history. A century ago, when baseball was the big thing, the 1919 World Series was rigged. College basketball has had Boston College's 1978 season, City College of New York's 1950 season, and the North Carolina/North Carolina State game of 1961 – all of them rigged. And that's just the stuff we know about because they got caught. Those scandals involved players but officials can be bought, too. The NBA had a referee allegedly rigging games in 2007.
Gamblers can make enormous profits when they know outcomes ahead of time and the Super Bowl is the largest single event in the world for amount of money wagered. Think about it. While you're thinking, review what happened in the game Sunday.
First, with 6:55 left in the first half, during some post-interception squabbling amongst players, Baltimore Raven cornerback Cary Williams shoved a referee. Not from behind so the ref couldn't see who did it – he walked right up and shoved him in the chest. There is no more serious offense in football and the penalty is always – always – automatic ejection from the game. But the official didn't even throw a flag.
In the second half the officials went berserk, starting with the opening kickoff which Baltimore ran back for a touchdown while the 49er with the best chance to make a tackle was being held. By itself, that's not too suspicious. Holding is frequently missed and the game was a blow-out so who cares?
But then the 49ers started coming back and the officials seemed to get more and more desperate to stop them. With ten minutes left the 49ers scored a touchdown to pull within two points. All they needed was a two-point conversion to tie it, but Baltimore's Ed Reed came across early, clearly offsides, blew up the play, and the officials ignored it.
The 49ers were down by two but they were dominating the Ravens. All they had to do was stop Baltimore one more time, get the ball back, and kick a field goal. On 3rd and 9 with 8:35 left in the game, the Ravens threw an incomplete pass but the refs called a dubious pass interference penalty to keep them going. Two plays later the officials awarded the Ravens a first down when the ball was clearly, obviously, flagrantly short of where it needed to be. Now it was getting easy to see what the refs were doing. Don't argue with me until you look at that first down. NFL refs never spot the ball so inaccurately. (When San Francisco challenged it the replay officials agreed and took away the first down.)
Thanks to the refs, Baltimore kicked a field goal to go up by five. Still, no problem. San Francisco marched right down to the seven yard line. The Baltimore Ravens were shell shocked, looking glum. The 49ers had two and a half minutes to go seven yards to win the game... but they forgot about those doggone refs. On second down, obvious pass interference, not called. On third down, illegal blow to a receiver's head, not called. On fourth down, the receiver is held so he can't go after the ball, not called again.
The game still wasn't over. With twelve seconds left the Ravens had to punt from their own end zone. That's when the refs proved they were in the bag: the Ravens literally bear-hugged the 49er rushers to waste time, a humorously intentional penalty that couldn't hurt them at that point... but the officials didn't even throw a flag on that.
Four game-changing Baltimore penalties in the last two minutes – not one of them called. C'mon, NFL: after two years of suspicious playoff games, you must know you've got a problem.
That's... today's dose of common sense.