Stop me if you’ve heard this before: an NFL team is on its way to a huge win when a goofy rule/blown call/dumb penalty costs said team the game. Always in the most infuriating way imaginable. Sounds familiar, right? Well, if it feels like we’re talking about asinine calls having an outside impact on who wins and loses every other week in the NFL, let me assure you, we are. This week’s disaster du jour befell the beyond terrible actually somewhat competitive Jets who, if we’re being honest, don’t need the league’s help in making their fans miserable.
In the play above Jets TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins appears to score a touchdown that would bring the underdog Jets in range for a shocking upset against their archnemesis Patriots. Naturally that’s not what happened. The touchdown was reviewed, as all touchdowns are, and not only was the score taken off the board but the ball was also awarded to the Patriots.
Seriously, what? We’re going to need to watch that video again.
Okay, so as he’s approaching and/or crossing the goal line, Seferian-Jenkins clearly loses the ball. He also, just as clearly, comes up with it after completing the catch.1 It’s what happens in the middle that sent Jets fans into hysteria. Since the call on the field was a touchdown, in order to overturn the call, referee there needed to be definitive proof that Seferian-Jenkins did not have possession of the ball when he went out of bounds. Definitive proof is exactly what the league’s officials determined that they had. So the Jets’ touchdown was wiped from the scoreboard and the ball was given to the Patriots at the 25 yard line.
Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence attended an NFL national anthem performance in Indianapolis. Typically, this would imply that he watched the football game that followed but in this ridiculousstupidmaddening curious instance it does not. Because, as soon as the anthem – for which several visiting 49ers players kneeled – was over, Pence exited stage left and he did so with a purpose.
How the hell does something like this even happen? Well, the official story is that Pence, the former governor of Indiana, simply happens to be a devoted Colts fan attending a game that featured a ceremony to honor Colts icon Peyton Manning; upon seeing football players kneeling during the anthem, the vice president’s delicate sensibilities were so offended that he had to abruptly leave the game in protest. Of course, it would be hard not to notice that Pence chose to attend a game featuring a 49ers team that has consistently embraced the kneeling protest that their former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started, and also that Pence was able to release a pretty polished statement almost immediately after leaving the game. Along with some other info, this seems to indicate that this was a premeditated PR stunt. None of which addresses the fact that vice president is willfully misinterpreting the players’ protest: they’re not protesting the flag or the military, they’re protesting police brutality against African Americans, a fact not lost on the significant number of veterans who have openly identified Kaepernick’s behavior as being exactly the kind of thing they serve to protect.
A week after benefitting from the institutional incompetence of the Detroit Lions1 the Atlanta Falcons found themselves on the other side of a victory-swinging cock-up against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. When Bills defensive lineman Jerry Hughes tackled Matt Ryan from behind in the third quarter, the ball was jarred loose and returned by Bills corner Tre’Davious White for a touchdown. The Bills would ultimately prevail over the Falcons by six points so this touchdown was absolutely the difference in this game. The problem, of course, is that replays clearly show that Matty Ice has incredible finger strength: the ball may have shifted in his hand but he never lost control until his arm was moving forward. That means that this was an incomplete pass and that the Falcons absolutely got screwed. But this – the most recent example of the never-ending fumble vs. incomplete pass shitshow – is boring NFL incompetence. We can do better.
In a week where the most important NFL action was taking place on the sidelines and where seemingly every game exploded into a cacophony of madness at onepointoranother, the Detroit Lions elected to spend Sunday afternoon honoring their proud heritage of failure and losing in the most heartbreaking way possible.
That the Lions, long one of the NFL’s greatest laughing stocks, would lose to an Atlanta Falcons team that – if only temporarily – held a huge lead in the Super Bowl just last season, is not surprising. It’s the manner of Detroit’s defeat that made this loss so particularly painful. After trailing all afternoon, the Lions marched down the field and appeared to take their first lead of the game with only eight seconds left on the clock as Matthew Stafford found Golden Tate on a quick in-route at the goal line.
The play, ruled a touchdown on the field, was subject to video review, as are all touchdowns. Replays of the play made it clear that there was certainly room for debate as to whether or not Tate was down by contact just short of the goal line. That no single camera angle showed conclusive proof that Tate is both down and touched by an opposing player before crossing the goal line – the latter portion being an important aspect of “down by contact” – did not stop the officials from overturning the on-field ruling and taking Detroit’s touchdown off the board.
While Lions fans were certainly aggrieved at this first portion of the revised ruling, it was no fresh experience; after all they’ve witnessed, “long-suffering” is the default epithet for all Lions fans. Luckily for Detroit, the Tate non-touchdown was a third down play, meaning they at least had one more shot for a victory on fourth down.
I get it. NBA players that you’ve never even heard of are pulling down huge new contracts while players who are adequate but unspectacular are getting insanely huge new contracts despite being massive injury risks.1 It’s probably enough to make you wonder if you should’ve played basketball instead of dedicating your life to a game that even its best players are saying will destroy your brain.