Everybody else writes about what they see.
Usually, I am a day behind (at least) half a dozen beat writers, a dozen blogs, a fistful of podcasts and 100,000 tweets, so I end up having to write about what I didn’t see, unless people are only tuning in for the semi-obscure pop culture references.
What everybody saw in the Saints loss to the Bucs yesterday was a NFL ritual that has more tradition than the Masters: Brady whines at refs and shows them up in a way that gets you tossed from most NBA games; nearby defender yells at Brady while walking away; Brady tries to semi-start some shit by retorting and posturing; the defender takes one or two (only) steps towards Brady; Brady’s teammate jumps in and shoves the defender while Brady hides behind his teammate’s skirt; the defender shoves back; and the refs come in and break it all up.
Such as it ever was. I have seen many episodes of “The Love Boat” that had less predictability. I mean, even the communion part of Sunday mass has more spontaneity.
Yesterday, of course, after our traditional tableau, Bucs WR Mike Evans comes flying in and cheap shots Saints CB and goad Marcus Lattimore (second time in the last four years Evans done that BTW), and the melee commences. After everything settles down, word comes down from the league offices watching from 1,400 miles away, offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, Evans is ejected, and, for some reason, so is Saints CB Marshon Lattimore.
Why was HE ejected? All he did was exchange shouts and step-tos with Brady (see above), shoved by Bucs RB Leonard Fournette and shove back (also see above), and get clobbered.
I think we all know, and as always, the answer comes from the league offices in New York.
So, what did everybody NOT see?
Normally, when a real fight starts, or somebody clearly goes over the line (often in retaliation), penalty flags fly everywhere, thrown with elan straight up in the air by referees who are apparently competing to see which one can throw a flag upwards with enough force that their flag achieves stable earth orbit.
But here, after the Fournette/L’Attimore contretemps, there was not a flag to be seen, as the seven refs on the field believed they had everything under control, until Evans came flying in to cheap-shot Lattimore and there’s yellow everywhere.
If the refs, who had a full view of everything on the field, didn’t even think Lattimore deserved a 15-yard penalty, why on earth does “New York” of course step in and arbitrarily toss him? On what basis? What did Lattimore do? Yell at Brady too loud? Defend himself when Fournette hit him? Not fall down quickly enough when Evans blasted him?
Nah. Of course, what the refs thought did not matter. The NFL just felt like it. The Recipe here is even more familiar to Saints fans than making a roux. Take
(a) one half-cup of some assumed need to send everybody a message about keeping the employees in line, with the time-honored discipline philosophy of “kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out,” plus
(b) a solid heapin’ helpin’ of Brady-ism (lest you think me paranoid, last night we got a few unsolicited consolation tweets from Kansas City Chiefs fans welcoming us to the club), plus
(c) a proper portion of the NFL’s indifference about what happens to small-market teams, plus
(d) a couple of teaspoons of another NFL vendetta move against the Saints (chef’s choice, season to taste), and topped off with a garnish of
(e) absolutely no cogent explanation of anything.
Don’t tell me I’m a paranoid homer. We’ve all seen it too many times.
By the way, why do they call it “unsportsmanlike conduct”? This is not a gentlemens’ tennis match in 1920s England, for crissakes, these guys are trying to kill each other on every play.
Call it what it is, either “Retaliation For Something We Didn’t See” or “Jesus You Can’t Even Do This In MMA” and be done with it.
Look, I know ALL the arguments, you can’t let the refs decide, you should have been up by more, always take it out of the hands of the refs so you can’t blame a call, you had your chances too, every side gets bad calls, blah blah blah. Spare me.
Meanwhile, aren’t the Bucs the ones who fumbled the ball away in easy field goal range, and then got stuffed on a 4th-and-1 inside our 10-yard line? They only had three points at the time and had failed to take advantage of any of their situations, why should they get bailed out?
Mistakes early in the game, you have time to adjust and try to even things out, it’s the nature and flow of any battle.
But big, late fuckups by the refs favoring one team almost always decide close games, not only because they give one team a substantial game situation advantage, but because there’s no time left afterwards for any evening out. Suddenly the team that did not get the break has to change its plans and do a substantial re-set, while the break-getter also gets a nice boost of momentum.
When the NFL home office tossed Lattimore, it was the break that saved the Bucs. With Lattimore gone, they got to throw a TD pass a few minutes later against Saints DB P.J. Williams, who is terrific moving forward and sideways but generally a disaster in trailing coverage.
The bottom line is that there was absolutely no reason for Lattimore to not be on the field. If he’s in the game, they just don’t score. He’s out, they do.
Plus ca change.