One week after the fact, they are still talking about it. There's even a lawsuit by some fans to try to overturn it. Some sportswriters are even going as far to say that the Super Bowl is now tainted, and some say they won't watch. Yes, the National Football League blew a call, but the Los Angeles Rams are still conference champions, and participating in Super Bowl LIII.
You undoubtedly know all about it by now. With 1:49 to go in the NFC Championship Game and the score tied 20-20, third down and 10 at the Rams 13 yard line, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees throws an incomplete pass to Tommy Lee Lewis. Lewis is clobbered by Nickell Robey-Coleman before had a chance to catch it, but no penalty flag was thrown. It's quickly going down as the worst blunder in NFL history, but to say that it cost the Saints the game is not exactly accurate.
The assumption is, and it's admittedly a likely one, that after getting a first down from the penalty, New Orleans would run down the clock and win the game on a last second field goal. However, we'll never know that. The Saints could have tried for a quick touchdown and gotten a pass intercepted, or maybe a sack would have resulted in a fumble and the Rams ball. Maybe the field goal would have missed. The game was tied at the time. Anything could have happened.
Also, how fitting is it to call the Saints the rightful champions after what happened next? Because of the no call, it was fourth down, and the Saints kicked a field goal to take a 23-20 lead. Then, they watched the Rams march down the field in the remaining minute and a half, and re-tie the game on a Greg Zuerlein 48-yard field goal. Overtime would follow, and New Orleans would get the ball.
The first play was a Brees pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. After another incompletion, pass interference was called, but not nearly as blatant as the no-call in regulation. A run for a loss followed, and then Brees floated one that was intercepted. Not the way to play if you are looking for redemption, or to say that you deserve a championship. After a first down, a run for a three-yard loss, a timeout, a aix-yard completion, and an incomplete pass, Zuerlein nailed a 57-yard field goal that would have been good from 70, and the Rams won it 26-23.
Saying that the no-call cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl may or may not be true (we'll never know), but saying that the Rams don't deserve to be there is totally false. It's the same logic that Red Sox fans did to poor Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series. The ground ball that went by him was in Game Six. Boston could still have won the next night, but they didn't, and the Mets won the series.
It should also be pointed out that of all the squawking being done about the no-call in the past week, there's one voice that has been mysteriously silent. League commissioner Roger Goodell has not said a word. One talk show host described it as “hiding under his desk.” The no-call was egregious. All Goodell would have to say would be something like, “I'm sorry, we (messed) up, and we'll try not to do it again.”
Goodell's silence has fans fuming, and neither is good for the league. You do have to feel for the Saints, but if they just played a little defense in the final minute, New Orleans fans would be laughing about that call instead of crying about it.
Pro Bowl, NHL All-Star Game, and SAG Awards: Didn't watch, didn't watch, and didn't watch. Didn't really care, either.
Novak-culous: I spent Saturday night watching programs that had built up on my TiVo, so that I could clear six hours to record the Australian Open men's final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. It figured to be an epic battle of tennis titans, but Djokovic dispatched Nadal quickly and rather painlessly, in just over two hours. The women's match 24 hours earlier was much more compelling, with Naomi Osaka needing three sets to defeat Petra Kvitova, and become the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win her first two major championships consecutively.
Sign already!: For most teams, the Major League Baseball season starts exactly two months from today (Seattle and Oakland start a week earlier in Japan), and still the two superstar free agents, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, are unsigned. There's no rule that says they have to be under contract by a certain date, but this is bad for baseball. If the reason for the delay has anything to do with draft pick compensation, or anything like that, rules should be changed. Technically it is still winter, but spring training camps will be opening in ahout three weeks.
Local boys returning?: I was alerted to one of the 'public notices' in the Marysville paper. It was a Fictitious Business Name statement listing a new limited liability company doing business as the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox. The team ceased operations after play last summer, but this statement lists Tommy Lininger as General Manager. Lininger is the son of former Gold Sox owner Tom Lininger, and a former Gold Sox player. There is nothing on the team website or in the paper to indicate if the 'new' team will play in 2019.
Honestly, I feel stupid writing this column after the last, now, three weeks. When my mother passed away January 9, the following two weeks were all too real. I'm back in Marysville now and it doesn't seem real at all. I knew she wouldn't call last night, like she has done every other Sunday, but other than that it seems like business as usual. Meanwhile, there's an empty house where my mom used to live, and I haven't done anything this past week regarding her affairs. I have no idea what to do next.