With less than 2 minutes left in NFC Championship game, New Orleans Saints MVP quarterback Drew Brees threw an incomplete pass to Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. This pass was incomplete due to the blatant pass interference foul. If the play in question was completed or properly called for a penalty, then the Saints would most likely be on their way to Super Bowl 53. LA Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Lewis in an obviously illegal helmet-to-helmet tackle, breaking up the pass. Not withstanding that Robey-Coleman is liable for a monetary fine, the play should have been called as a pass interference penalty. This penalty would have significantly increased the Saints odds, but no foul was called and ultimately the Rams won. Bad calls are engrained in sports history, many of which are judged by biased fans. However, some calls are truly heinous. NHL Dallas Stars player Brett Hull scoring a goal despite his skate being in the crease to win the 1999 Stanley Cup and Kansas City Royals player Jorge Orta being called safe allowing the Royals to win the 1985 World Series are just two notorious examples of how a bad call can change a game’s outcome. More than that, bad calls infuriate already emotional fans. Often, controversy erupts but then fizzles out as the next drama takes the ESPN stage. This discussion isn’t fizzling; it’s exploding as the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back.
Disbelief and incredulity is all over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Saints billionaire owner, Gayle Benson, promised the fan base she’s personally going to take “aggressive” action (see statement above). Further, multiple Saints fans have actually filed separate, real lawsuits, naming NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL as defendants. In the suits, the plaintiffs explain their extreme distress and distrust of the NFL, stating viewers won’t purchase tickets to watch a game so devalued of its integrity. The lawsuit demands that a judge hears the case prior to the February 3rd Super Bowl to change replay policies. The NFL is naming this year an “officiating crisis,” and there will most likely be a major overhaul during the off-season. Like any drama played out on the national stage, it wasn’t long before social media reared its ugly head.
As a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, I’ve felt the pain of bad seasons and bad calls (ahem the no flag during Houston Texans Jadeveon Clowney’s obvious roughing the passer on Nick Foles). The NFL has long needed an officiating overhaul, but the season isn’t over yet. As one of the year’s most viewed nights in television, the Super Bowl producers definitely have their hands full. The question is whether or not those hands will be full of yellow penalty flags.