. . . pretty amazing, right? Two sure-fired Hall-of-Fame, 40-year-old quarterbacks throwing the ball all over the place in the football version of the Last Hurrah. Brady and Brees, back and forth and . . .
. . . it never happened. Because the Saints weren’t there, the Rams were, despite a law suit in federal court in New Orleans challenging that fact.
Unless you’ve been frozen in a snow bank for the last fourteen days or so, you can guess what the action was about: the single worst non-call in sports history (okay, and this is solely for SEO purposes, except, perhaps, for Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal in the 1986 World Cup).
With 1:49 left in the NFC Championship, scored tied at 20-20, Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees threw a pass for a first down at the Rams 5 yard line . . . except a Rams defender buried the receiver long before the ball got to him.
Textbook example of pass interference. And head to head contact. And probably a violation of two or more Newtonian principals. It was going to be half the distance to the goal line, first down Saints, the game all but over.
All that hung in the air for a solid five seconds in the noisy Superdome after the play. The world stopped while everyone waited for the yellow flag, the Rams defender, head hanging low, doubtlessly contemplated a lifetime of being the goat (the no capital letters kind of goat) who cost the Rams their first trip to a Super Bowl in seventeen years.
But, of course, there was no flag. No penalty was called. There was only a Saints fourth down and the field goal guys jogging – slowly – onto the field for a short field goal to go up three.
That, actually, is not completely accurate. A lot was going on. While the eleven members of the field goal team got set, the rest of the Saints, led by their head coach, Sean Payton, went nuts. Ranting, screaming at the refs. The crowd under the dome joined in to the point the public-address announcer had to warn the fans to stop throwing debris on the field.
Payton went after the refs. The cameras followed him. Halfway through, any decent lip reader could pick this out of his stream of obscenities – “You just cost us a Super Bowl.”
So . . . let’s stop right there.
The Saints led 23-20. There were 101 seconds left in the game.
The Saints kicked off. The Rams got the ball on their own 25 yard line. Payton was ‘still pleading his case’ in the words of The New York Times, when Jeff Goff and the Rams offense jogged onto the field.
Payton yelled at whatever referee was close enough to hear him, the Saints on the sidelines were just as agitated, and the Rams drove through a dispirited Saints defense and down the field to a game tying field goal with 19 seconds left.
For New Orleans that apparently meant an extra long time out to . . . continue to yell at the referees.
Let us note here, by the way, that in the entire history of organized professional sports, no referee or umpire has ever reversed a call on the field a solid fifteen minutes after judgment was rendered.
The Saints won the coin toss for overtime and got the ball. They weren’t in any state of mind to do what Kansas City and New England did later that same night – operate under intense pressure and hardships at peak performance in a back and forth game until someone won.
Instead, the Saints lost.
By now you’ve probably figured out why a family law firm is writing about this.
I think a recent headline in The Washington Post almost perfectly sums it up:
“The blown call in Saints-Rams reminded us sports are messy.”
Sports are messy. Life is messy. Divorce is messy. Court is messy.
Bad calls, no calls, blown calls, whatever, are made everyday. Sometimes they’re annoying, sometimes they’re upsetting, sometimes they set us back. Sometimes they’re out of left field and crushing.
Freed Marcroft does a lot of family law litigation. We see and experience a lot of bad calls. It’s inevitable. What’s not inevitable, or necessary, or advised, is taking the Sean Payton and New Orleans Saints approach . . . instead you play on.
There’s virtually an unlimited amount of time after it’s over to complain and point out the unfairness of it all and the incompetence of the refs.
In the meantime you keep going . . . And win.
I can’t help thinking that if the Saints and their coaches had employed the same . . . passion . . . they exhibited going after the refs into the defense in those last 101 seconds of regulation, or into the offense at the start of overtime, we would have an entirely different column today.