This weekend, America begins what’s usually the most talkative week of the year for professional sports. This winter, as in so many others, legions of media commentators, along with athletes, coaches and fans, will spend the next seven days discussing the lead-up to the Super Bowl, a pageant of prognostication for what’s billed as the biggest sports event of the year.
But amid the national chatter, Roger Goodell, the man most responsible for making the NFL run smoothly, hasn’t publicly said a word about a blunder that’s deeply tainted this year’s Super Bowl.
It happened during last Sunday’s playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams, when NFL referees failed to penalize Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman for pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact after he broke up a pass to Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis. A fine for Robey-Coleman after the fact doesn’t change the reality of this travesty.
Goodell has since spoken on the telephone with Coach Sean Payton and team owner Gayle Benson, ESPN reported, but has given zero in the way of an explanation to fans.
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Maybe Goodell is hoping that with the distractions of this week’s media circus, the public will simply forget the abysmal officiating that, in the eyes of many Saints fans, cost the New Orleans franchise a spot in the Super Bowl when it lost to the Los Angeles Rams in a close playoff.
But the faithful of Who Dat Nation haven’t forgotten what happened in the Superdome on January 20, nor should football fans across the country. If the point of playoffs is to produce the best two teams as Super Bowl contenders, then not only the Saints, but America, has been cheated this year. In the wake of the mistake made by NFL referees during the Saints-Rams game, a screw-up that endures in living color, Super Bowl fans can’t be assured they’re getting the real Super Bowl champions next month, regardless of the outcome.
It didn’t have to be this way. Goodell has some extraordinary powers in such situations, like ordering a portion — or even the entirety — of a botched game to be repeated. Time has pretty much run out for such remedies, which probably weren’t seriously considered in the first place. We can only speculate on that point, since Goodell hasn’t publicly uttered a word about the fiasco.
That’s the kind of behavior befitting a royal eminence, not the steward of what’s supposed to be a populist pastime. But all is not well in Goodell’s gridiron kingdom. His silence, rather than hiding the harm done in the Debacle in the Dome, only makes it stand out all the more.