I said in my last Cowboy’s post to watch the fuck out for sketchy officials in Rams playoff games and lo and behold did that come true to absolutely screw the Saints on Sunday. It’s possible to be a smartass and cite any of the hundreds of variables that go into an NFL game and say it is not the refs’ fault the Saints lost, but anyone with a brain understands that to be false.
The Saints did not trail at any point of the game until the final kick. Their hall of fame QB and hall of fame coach executed that final drive in a nearly flawless manner like legends do. It was capped with a perfect play design that left a WR wide open against a shitty linebacker. Unfortunately, it was undone by what was indisputably the worst referee call in the history of sports. An absolute abomination. This is the darkest moment the NFL has ever experienced, not only because the call was so inexcusable but because it is the exact result the league hoped for and it is more than plausible that the league tampered with this game.
Now I will say, I’m a big fan of conspiracies but never before this week have I thought the NFL would stoop to NBA levels of crookery and actually rig their games. There’s been fabrications off the field like DeflateGate, forcing Kraft to release Parcells to the Jets, the Michael Sam draft pick, etc. But for the first time in my life I find myself questioning the integrity of a game itself, and that is a sad look for the league.
Eyebrows started raising back in November for the MNF mega matchup between the Rams and Chiefs. Kansas City rolled in unexpectedly sitting in first place and posed a serious threat to the Rams’ playoff home-field advantage aspirations, especially after a recent beat down in the Superdome knocked them out of the NFC pole position.
The game was supposed to be in Mexico City at the expense of a Rams home game, but the NFL mysteriously decided to move the game back to the Coliseum in the week leading up. The league had a plausible cover story citing ‘player safety concerns’ after photos popped up showing harsh field conditions from a recent Shakira concert. However, that concert took place on October 11, over a month before the game. Even before that, the NFL received regular reports outlining the risky field conditions and conveniently waited until it was too late to act on it. (Also those internet photos were not up-to-date and the field was playable, certainly better than the Oakland Coliseum)
Then in that same week, the league announced an unprecedented decision to switch out the officials for a special, hand-picked ‘all-star crew’. Those officials went on to call everything under the sun against the Chiefs, including nine(!) first quarter penalties and let the Rams false start on every single play. It was honestly impressive that the Chiefs still could have won when they had to play two teams at once.
Going forward from that game, it was buyer beware for anyone betting against Los Angeles. Even the Chargers with their trash ass coach almost caught up to KC to win the west. What a magical story for the city of LA and, given the timing, what an epic ‘break’ for the owners.
We know the NFL has spent decades longing for a legitimate fanbase in America’s largest market, hoping for a chance to disrupt the city’s relentless apathy to professional football. A Rams Super Bowl win is likely the only opportunity to finally make that come to fruition. That part is obvious, but this specific season (and playoff run) has more money riding on it than any in NFL history or even future for that matter…
Personal. Seat. Licenses. In short for the uninitiated, season ticket contracts require large down payments for fans to ‘reserve their own seat’ before buying the actual tickets. Through these payments, the owners rake in cash upfront while also locking fans in to renewing their season tickets in perpetuity to avoid forfeiting the license and letting that non-refundable check go to waste.
The Cowboys and Niners PSL schemes raised over $500M a piece, and with those stadiums being publicly funded, the NFL laughed it’s way to the fucking bank. However, the Inglewood stadium is different in that Kroenke is privately funding the project with bank loans stipulating a return of $4B in stadium revenue. The NFL targeted for about 1/4 of that revenue to come from PSLs for both the Chargers and Rams.
In addition, there’s naming rights, sponsorship contracts, corporate suite sales, etc. etc. Serious money is at stake. New stadiums have worked out lucratively enough in every other NFL market, but to the surprise of nobody the league is finding itself in a pickle in LA. The fanbases haven’t built up because LA is LA, and the Chargers especially have been absolutely shitting the bed in sales. (It’s also interesting to note that these reports of struggling PSL sales came out shortly before the aforementioned MNF matchup, even around the same time as the Shakira show)
Deep playoff runs this year were imperative for revenue to catch back up in LA. In a seemingly divine intervention for the league’s fortunes, Bill Vinovich and his crew ensured that and then some on Sunday by sending the Rams to the Super Bowl. Crazy how the cards play out like that sometimes.
I will say, I am personally saddened by this but I cannot blame the league for what they did. In fact, the fans deserve this. The fans have been at war with the league for years now bitching about everything under the sun related to the NFL. The fans took the bait from the president and his hillbillies last year and let a massive boycott blow up in the league’s face. Worst of all, fans across America espoused the NBA(!) as the up and coming successor to our #1 sport. The NBA, the most blatantly rigged organization outside of WWE. Honestly good on the NFL for taking a page out of David Stern’s playbook. I probably would’ve done the same thing.