It's terrible that this is my first article coming out of the Super Bowl, but many questions have been raised after the refereeing performance on Sunday night. For those stuck in a shoebox, the issue with the refs on Sunday is that only six penalties were called throughout the game, and three of them came in the last two minutes.
The penalties in the final two minutes set the Rams up for a touchdown. On a third and goal play, Matt Stafford missed a throw to Cooper Kupp, but pass interference was called. First down, Rams. Next, Kupp caught a touchdown in the endzone, but defensive pass interference and holding penalties were called, so the touchdown did not count. On the next play, another incomplete pass to Cooper Kupp, but another pass interference was called, which put the Rams on the one-yard line. Two plays later. Touchdown Rams.
With only 1 minute 25 seconds left in the game, Bengals ball. Unfortunately for the Bengals, Von Miller, Aaron Donald, and the Rams defense were too much for their O-Line. On a 4th and 1 call, Bengals coach Zac Taylor decided to pass the ball. Incomplete pass. The Rams get the ball back with 39 seconds, take a knee, ball game.
So, why is there speculation of the NFL being rigged after this game? For starters, this is the second year in a row that the Super Bowl was hosted in the same city as one of the teams participating in the Super Bowl. This has only happened twice in the history of the game. This increased the demand and jacked up prices for both Super Bowls. Having a good team in LA, whether it is the Lakers, Rams, or the USC Trojans, is good for any league because of the market that comes with the city. Before the playoffs had begun, there had already been speculation that the LA Rams would win it all this year since they were in a new stadium, a big city, and they had a marketable roster.
If you listen to podcasts or read blogs that talk about the NFL, you have probably heard, "The NFL wants the Rams to win the Super Bowl." When you mix a championship-winning team with the LA market, leagues and organizations now have the power to ask for an absurd amount of money in sponsorships and tax relief. In addition, LA has a huge TV market, so you best believe that if your company wants to do a TV deal with the NFL, prices just skyrocketed since the Rams are relevant again.
Another reason this issue is debated is because of the Brian Flores case. Allegedly, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross attempted to pay Flores to lose to get an optimal draft pick. Should this allegation come out to be true, the integrity of competition in the NFL has just been shattered.
It has also conspired that Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos was also rigged so that the NFL could send Manning out on top. These are just allegations, but there is evidence that the NFL helped elevate Manning's career into what it was intentionally. We know that the Carolina Panthers team that year was one of the best teams the league has ever seen, and for them to be beat the way they were by an old Peyton Manning does raise questions.
Finally, per my last article, Aaron Rodgers winning the league MVP doesn't seem right. Cooper Kupp had a rare performance at WR, leading in yards, touchdowns, and receptions. Tom Brady also played on a 13-3 team, and he led the league in passing touchdowns and passing yards. So why was he not named MVP?
We have to understand that the NFL is a business whose primary goal is to make money. In the entertainment industry, you give people what they want to see. So it's tricky because while the NFL has to uphold the integrity of the game, you could also make a lot more money if the Rams and Cowboys are playing well, so why would you not give those two teams an edge? The NFL has the resources to get the outcome that they want to have while also making us believe that it is all real. It is all speculation, but it has to make you wonder what you could do with $91 billion (Forbes). Unfortunately, it does seem like professional sports are becoming more and more like the WWE, just subtly. Football games are a performance made for entertaining and generating profits.
Play on the field is no longer the most critical factor. Antonio Brown and JuJu are great examples of this. They make a lot of noise off the field, and it is all for show. This trend continues to catch on. The integrity of sport continues to be in question. There may come a day where sports are indeed nothing but a show.