It was the worst non-call in the history of the NFL . By now, you've probably seen it a hundred times -- if not more! Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw the ball toward Tommylee Lewis down near the Rams 5-yard line in the final minutes of the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago. But Lewis was hit well before the ball got to him by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, a clear pass interference call. Except that the refs swallowed their whistles and kept the penalty flags in their pockets. Had they simply made the right (and frankly, obvious) call, the Saints would have eaten up the rest of the clock and put a chip shot field goal up to advance to the Super Bowl. Kicker Will Lutz does not miss at that distance.
The Rams got another chance and found a way to win, to their credit. And for what it's worth, it's not the Rams' fault that they took advantage of a rotten job of officiating.
But Saints fans were outraged, rightly so. It's hard to get to the Super Bowl, and the Saints had a 99% chance of going had the right call been made. I was at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for that game and clearly saw the pass interference across the field and still cannot figure out how the referees blew it. My wife and I have already made plans to do something else on Super Bowl Sunday -- something that involves NOT watching the game. Harry Connick, Jr. has said he won't watch until the NFL addresses the rules that prevented anyone from doing anything to get the call right, even after the fact.
And in New Orleans, the center of Who Dat Nation, Saints fans are tuning out in massive numbers. In an article from Larry Holder at The Athletic (paywall), we learn that Tracey's in the Irish Channel area of the city is planning to show Super Bowl XLIV on their seventeen TVs instead -- the one the Saints played in and won.
Some other noteworthy tidbits from that article:
- Bars all over the city are refusing to show the game.
- Second Lines are happening all over the city, including Jackson Square and along the Mississippi River
- And then there's Boycott Bowl. This is a music festival that was put together as an "emergency response event," designed to celebrate the city and its resiliency. And it's SOLD OUT .
Here on the Central Gulf Coast, fewer of us are highly invested in the Saints or the NFL -- at least compared to college football or to NFL fans in New Orleans. I haven't heard of any big local protest events, nor do I know of any bar that's publicly stated they won't show the game. And when I walked into Publix for a couple of items last night, they had a big Super Bowl display with Patriots and Rams balloons. Somehow, I don't think that display would be happening at New Orleans-based Rouse's -- even at their Mobile locations.
Still, there are a good number of die hard Saints fans in our area. Many of them simply won't watch, while others will go out and do something more interesting than watch a game that can only annoy them further. If you're a South Alabama Jags fan, though, you might sneak a peek just to see how tight end Gerald Everett does. He's the first Jags player to ever play in a Super Bowl, and I'm happy for him.
I don't know what most Saints fans want out of this situation, but I think I speak for the majority: make some changes to the review rules so that something this egregious can never happen again. And apologize for what happened. Actually, that's something they should have done the day after the non-call.