Super Bowl LV was unwatchable
I spent my Sunday night watching a high-stakes drama.
I saw some of the best performers in the world practice their craft on the highest stage the medium has to offer. For millions of people in America and around the world, this program is appointment viewing.
I am, of course, referring to The Crown on Netflix, the Emmy-winning historical drama chronicling the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
I tried to watch the Super Bowl. But moments after former LSU star and current Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu was flagged for pass interference in the end zone on a throw that sailed ten feet over the receiver’s head, I turned the game off. No human could have caught that ball.
On the next play, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs scored a touchdown from the one-yard line, taking a 21-6 lead into halftime against the Chiefs.
I had seen enough. The game was broken.
The Chiefs were besieged by yellow flags, setting the record for most penalties (8 for 95 yards) in the first half of a Super Bowl. I’m not buying into “the NFL is rigged so Tom Brady can win it all again” conspiracy theories, but I am buying into the “NFL refs are generally incompetent” argument. Sometimes penalties are good calls…unless they aren’t.
Shortly before Mathieu was called for PI in the end zone, cornerback Beshaud Breeland fell down in coverage on the Bucs’ Mike Evans, who was streaking down the far sideline. It looked like Breeland tripped up Evans in the process, but upon viewing the replay, it wasn’t clear if Breeland even touched the Bucs WR. Still, a flag was thrown and Tampa Bay advanced the ball 34 yards during a crucial two-minute drill before halftime.
It was a momentum-shifting, game-changing play. It’s debatable at best whether the officiating crew got the call right, and on the game’s biggest stage, that can’t happen.
I have no idea whether the officiating got better in the second half because it wasn’t worth my time.
For Saints fans, the penalty party was sickening. How is it possible that NFL referees can swallow their whistles when TommyLee Lewis was being destroyed during a play straight out of NFL Blitz ’99, but are happy to throw a flag when the slightest breeze knocks Antonio Brown an inch off his route?
Where is the quality control? Where is the accountability?
The first half of Super Bowl LV reminded me of an NBA game. It’s no secret that in basketball, fouls that get called while guarding Lebron James or James Harden would never be called against players defending someone who isn’t a member of the league’s elite.
It’s unacceptable that NFL refs are rarely punished for calling a bad game. Bill Vinovich, the referee responsible for the infamous no-call in the 2019 NFC Championship Game, still stalks the sidelines, prepared to commit another franchise-altering brain fart at any moment.
It could happen to any team, any fan base. And I hope it does, so everyone can experience what it feels like.
The NFL is a reactionary league run by people richer than your wildest dreams. They will only enact real change if the quality of their product suffers enough to hurt their bottom line. A massive financial crisis is probably one of the only ways Roger Goodell will ever lose his job. The on-field fate of NFL teams will be left up to the failing eyes and expanding guts of middle-aged men (and one woman) until the league is given a good enough reason to take human error out of the equation.
What makes matters even worse for Saints fans is that it could have been New Orleans getting the benefit of these calls. Sure, the Saints played well enough to be deserving of a Super Bowl berth for most of the season as their roster was constructed in 2020, but there’s another reason – which is that Tom Brady was almost a Saint.
It was reported (though never confirmed) that Brady was interested in playing for Sean Payton if Drew Brees had retired after the 2019 season. Now that we know Brees played through 2020 old and hurt, it really makes you wonder what could’ve been.
How do we make sure this never happens again? How do we open the NFL’s eyes to the fact that their product is spoiling on the shelf?
The answer is simple: don’t buy it.
Don’t watch. Don’t purchase their merchandise. Don’t engage with the league on social media. When the ratings crater and there are piles of unsold Nike polos getting shipped to T.J. Maxx, only then will the NFL care.
Next September, when a non-Saints game is on television, might I suggest The Crown instead? And now, back to your regularly scheduled binge.