Popcorn & Cleats
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Popcorn & Cleats

Referees are Human Beings

They Have Feelings Also

Clete Blakeman (Photo courtesy of NFL via NESN.)

Most NFL fans are tired. Tired of seeing sleeveless hoodies. Tired of hearing pointless press conferences stating every answer with the focus towards their next opponent. Tired of hearing about various cheating scandals. Tired of the New England Patriots.

We aren’t done with the Patriots yet though. We have to get through one more game of the NFL season, but it’s the biggest game on earth: the Super Bowl. Yes, the Patriots are back in the title game, and their opponent is the Nick Foles (gulp) led Philadelphia Eagles. Anti-Patriots fans should feel even more tired when they notice Oddshark has the Pats as a 4.5 favorite in the spread. Sigh. All signs are pointing to a New England Super Bowl victory. The Patriots haters out there are pointing fingers at the refs for the reason why the Patriots are in the Super Bowl this year. After witnessing a miraculous comeback from the taped hand demigod we should refer to as now, Tom Brady, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Patriots haters are foaming at the mouth to find something that shows the NFL wants the Patriots to win. For this go around, it’s the officials of the AFC Championship Game.

First off, do I believe the NFL wanted the Patriots to beat the Jaguars? MY GOD, YES. They did. There is no denying the NFL has been moving backward over the years. With pressing issues surrounding concussions, lack of quality games and the stand/or don’t stand for the National Anthem debate; the NFL hasn’t looked worse. Imagine if the Super Bowl played on Sunday were the Jags vs either the Minnesota Vikings or the Eagles. I honestly believe a lot of people wouldn’t even watch the Super Bowl. I’m sure the hypothetical Super Bowl would be one of the lowest viewed games in a long time. You would have no big-name quarterbacks in the game, and it most likely would be a defensive battle. So, yes of course the NFL wanted the Patriots to win. Even though so many fans are tired of seeing the Pats in the title fight, they are going to tune in to see if the Patriots lose. They are going to tune in to see if the most significant head coach/QB tandem in the history of the league will win their sixth ring. It makes phenomenal TV, any way you look at it.

Now, with that out of the way, I don’t think the NFL and the collection of referees who officiated the game rigged it so the Pats would prevail. Conspiracists are harping on four instances in the AFC Championship game. I will go over each example in this article, but first, I want to remind everyone that referees are people too. They have feelings (NBA players are the worst with how they treat officials, thank God a meeting will happen to address it), they eat and breathe like us, and they shit sitting down just like everyone else. So, referees can make mistakes. We see it all the time in the NFL. They can also react with specific emotions just like everyone else. They can laugh, they can cry, they can fear and they can love. They are human.

Also, before we get to the instances, I should point out the Patriots had only one penalty the entire AFC Championship game. The one penalty was for a total of ten yards. The Jags had six penalties for 98 yards. The last time a team had only one penalty in an AFC Championship Game was in 2011 when you guessed it; the Patriots did it. I feel like you should know this.

  1. The Stopping of Myles Jack’s Potential Touchdown Run

The Jags were up 20–10 with 13:50 left in the game. The Patriots decided to do a little trickery and have wide receiver Danny Amendola throw a cross-field screen pass to running back Dion Lewis. Lewis broke free for 20 yards until Myles Jack came trampling over and tackled him and forced a fumble. The ball never hit the ground, and it rolled on top of Jack. He immediately got up and started booking it toward the end zone. It looked like Jack would get a touchdown, but as soon as he got up and ran a few yards, the refs blew the whistle, and the play died. Jack was furious. He had all the right to be. The refs called the play dead before they knew the play was over.

Granted the play did happen very fast. It must have been hard for the refs to realize if Jack was down or not. Usually, in this case, the refs would let the play ride out until Jack got tackled or scored. For some reason, the refs decided to call the play dead. Now, they couldn’t go back to look at it. It’s understandable why Patriots haters would point to this play. It’s not the usual way a ref would go about officiating this call. All season long, refs let the play unfold, and then when the play ended, go into the booth and review it. They always air on the side of caution, not wanting to ruin the game for a team. But what I will say is, there is a referee very close to the action, and he must have thought Lewis grazed Jack when he was on the ground. He had to of. Here’s the footage, make a decision for yourself.

2. The Patriots Touchdown Drive at the End of the First Half

A. First off, if you think the fifteen-yard penalty against the Jags for the helmet to helmet hit against Rob Gronkowski was a bad call, you’re insane. Years ago, sure one could make the argument that it was a bad call, but in today’s NFL, where they are trying (key word here) to be safer, refs are going to make the call every single time. Gronkowski went into concussion protocol because of it. The refs had to make this call. That’s all you need to know.

B. The 32-yard pass interference call against Jags cornerback A.J. Bouye against Pats wide receiver Brandin Cooks was absolute garbage. They were both shoving and poking at each other. Cooks could have been called for interference as well. But in this case, 99 times out of 100, refs are going to call in favor of the offense. Throughout my viewing of the NFL, offenses usually get the majority of the calls. The pass interference was not a good call at all, but there was contact, and the offensive player will most likely get the benefit of the call.

Side note: Who else thinks the NFL needs to relook at the pass interference rules? Why is the call automatically the spot of the foul? Why does the NFL ruling committee believe the wide receiver would automatically catch the ball? Yes, they are a professional and most likely will, but there is a chance they won’t. The rule should change to half the distance of the foul. So, in the above case, it would be a 16-yard penalty instead of a 32-yard penalty. It seems more fair for the defense, but yet again it’s an offensive driven league. The NFL wants offenses to score.

3. The Referees “celebrating” with the Patriots.

The above video is a little sketchy. We haven’t seen too many referees act like that around NFL players, but I honestly think the refs were trying to break up the Patriots celebrating because they were hitting their heads together and the NFL is trying to limit any head to head contact. You can see the refs trying to break the celebrating up. Conspiracists point to the fact the refs are smiling and laughing. Well, it must be hard not to enjoy a bunch of giant men acting like a bunch of kids. Try and tell me you wouldn’t be smiling either. Like, I said refs are human. They can appreciate utter bliss too.

B. In the next video, we have referee Clete Blakeman seemingly patting Brady on the back, and then playfully pushing him. It seems like he is congratulating Brady on the victory. The act isn’t something we see refs normally do, but at the same time, at the age of 40, Tom Brady isn’t normal. He’s the greatest quarterback ever to lace up cleats. Brady’s comeback victory against the Jags was epic and just adds to the lore of Brady. Just like the viewers, referees also witnessed history and great achievement. I think Blakeman wanted to congratulate Brady. Strange for a ref to do? Yes, but not suspicious.

Overall, I think non-Patriots fans are harping a little too much on the refs assisting the Patriots. I think we should take it a little easier on the refs. We are all humans, and we all can make mistakes.

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Ryan Fasciano

Ryan Fasciano

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Your Friendly Neighborhood G$. Writing about sports and film because it ought to be this way.