DID COLLUSION EXIST IN CHOICE OF SUPER BOWL LIII TEAMS?
With Super Bowl LIII only four days away, one would think the media would have total emphasis on Sunday’s extravaganza between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta. But some just won’t let the National Football League’s biggest screw-up die. I’m referring to the blown non-call in the NFC Championship two weeks ago that perhaps cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to this Super Bowl. Although Rams defensive back Nickell-Robey-Coleman didn’t do anything wrong on a pass play to Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis late in the game from the viewpoints of side judge Gary Cavaletto or back judge Todd Prukup, the game continued as if nothing flagrant had happened. Bill Vinovich, who headed the eight-person officiating crew, made little or no effort to visit with his two game officials closest to the play and get their separate versions of how they interpreted the play. The NFL certainly saw the play they same way everyone in the Superdome and millions of television viewers did and promptly fined Coleman nearly $27,000 for either a helmet-to-helmet collision or for his blatant pass interference on the play. The Saints fans, players and coaches will probably never forgive and forget the call for many decades, while the rest of the pro football world should go on and focus on the Super Bowl. Last week’s edition of USA Today Sports Weekly had two articles pertaining to the incident with one headlined “NFL must fix growing officiating issue as mistakes overtake hype.” “The NFL’s faithful yet ever-skeptical fans can speak only of conspiracy theories,” the article pointed out. “They’ve called the league a scam while accusing it and its officials of fixing games. The latest officiating-related controversy has badly tainted the outlook of Sunday’s game.” Talk shows raised the possibility of collusion between the NFL and the game officials to somehow get the two largest market cities—New England and the LA Rams– in Super Bowl LIII. Another caller added to this scenario that the player’s union should hire an “independent” prosecutor like William Mueller to handle the investigation. Still another quipped that we can’t wait for two years to hear the verdict. Monday morning on ESPN’s “First Take” the first item on its agenda pertained to the fact that four of Vinovich’s eight-person officiating crew in the LA-New Orleans conference championship game were from the Los Angeles area. There’s no doubt it was just a mere coincidence, but some very good points were made by the panel that really made sense. Again, the word “collusion” came to the forefront. “The league wanted to make sure the Rams were in the Super Bowl,” was one of the viewpoints. Another former NFL player pointed out that the LA Rams had never won a game that was officiated by Head Referee Bill Vinovich. The AFC game also could have been won by the Patriots on a blown call by the refs. Kansas City defensive end Chris Jones barely grazed quarterback Tom Brady when trying to swipe at him, but the officials called roughing the passer on a play that resulted in an incomplete pass with the Chiefs holding a four-point lead and seven minutes left in the game. The Patriots scored a touchdown nine plays later and went on to win in overtime 37-31. “The competition committee had previously hesitated to make an array of officiating calls subject to review partially out of fear of extending the length of games,” the article stated. “But everyone from coaches, players and fans will live with that to ensure that such teams aren’t cheated out of victories. “It will be interesting to see if any of the officials who missed the call will be fired. But simply dismissing people won’t erase human error,” the article concluded. KWICKIES…During the first week after the NFL conference championship games, Las Vegas and the eight states that offer legalized betting on football noted that 52 per cent of the bets were made on the Rams, but most of the big money was placed on New England. This week 96 per cent of the money was bet on the Patriots at the Mirage Casino in Vegas Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson threw a touchdown pass in Sunday’s Pro Bowl which very well could have been done during “garbage time” with 22 seconds left in the game when the AFC already had the win in the bag 26-7. The Associated Press referred to the contest as a “glorified touch football game.” Although last weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open was won by the world’s No. 1 golfer Justin Rose by two strokes, much of the media attention was on Tiger Woods and his first PGA tournament of the year. However, Tiger trailed the leaders by a significant margin until the final nine holes on Sunday when he had five birdies and shot a respectable 67. Rose collected a check for $1,278,000 while Tiger finished 20th for $79,804. Louisiana native Kent Desormeaux rallied to win at Santa Anita Sunday for his 6,000th career victory. He won his first race at Evangeline Downs in Lafayette on July 13, 1986, but soon moved to Maryland and went on to be the leading jockey there in 1987 with 450 victories,
JUST BETWEEN US…My personal views on Sunday’s Super Bowl is that I’m banking on Orange native Wade Phillips to devise a strategy that will keep plenty of pressure on quarterback Tom Brady by the Rams defense. Wade says he will wear a big cowboy hat and boots just like his dad Bum did on the sidelines for big games. But if someone held a gun to my head and asked me who I like, I’d probably say the Patriots, 28-24.