From the Editor: Louisiana people stand together — against the refs
As a state, we’re sometimes divided. Events often pit one against the other: Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative, men against women, north Louisiana vs. south Louisiana and even, occasionally, east St. Mary vs. west St. Mary.
But sometimes we come together in amazing ways. Sunday, the occasion was the Saints game, and it united us in our determination to tar and feather an officiating crew.
As you surely know, the Saints were driving late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s National Football Conference championship game, tied 20-20 with Los Angeles.
The team whose fans once wore bags on their heads was the brink of its second Super Bowl in a decade.
Quarterback Drew Brees unleashed a pass to Tommylee Lewis deep in Rams territory. Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman, back to the ball, slammed his helmet into Lewis’ helmet before the ball arrived. The pass fell incomplete.
No pass interference. No targeting. No nothing.
If the penalty — either of them — had been called, New Orleans could have let the clock run down to a second or two before kicking a winning field goal. As it was, Will Lutz’ field goal to make it 23-20 left plenty of time to get into position for a 48-yard field goal by the Rams' Greg Zuerlein, sending the game into overtime.
And there, after a Rams interceptiom, Zuerlein struck again, this time from 57 yards, to end the Saints’ season.
My Facebook friends were, like yours I suspect, quick to react.
A frequent poster on the Acadiana, Cajun & Creole page posted a video in which Saints coach Sean Payton said the NFL’s New York office admitted that the officials blew the Robey-Coleman call. That’s a confession without consequences.
“Helmet to helmet pass interference not called,” posted one man who once worked on Attorney General Jeff Landry’s congressional campaign. “Unreal!”
“I haven’t watched much football this year,” one Lafayette man wrote. “Didn’t realize they’d changed the rules to allow defenders to tackle receivers before the ball gets there.”
The networks would love that, by the way. They’d have more time fill with commercials.
A noted Louisiana musician thinks Jimmy Buffett cursed the Saints with his pregame vocal performance: #NeverAgain.”
A former co-worker posted a YouTube mashup of a pro wrestling match with Rams and Saints helmets superimposed on the wrestlers. The referee picks up the “Saint” and drops him head-first to the mat.
“Has to be accountability for missed call,” wrote one public official. “We shall see. NFL. Track record not so good.”
A former north Louisiana editor said she stopped watching the game because it was too tense.
Another former co-worker posted a letter purportedly from crooner Harry Connick Jr. “Until changes are made,” the letter said, “specifically, booth review of outcome-altering no-calls, you can count me out.”
“Since the bad call happened at the Superdome,” one lady replied to an attorney’s post, “can we sue?”
That comment was interesting because it brought up the subject of lawsuits.
During the 2016 season, San Francisco quarter Colin Kaepernick dropped to a knee during the national anthem to protest police treatment, including fatal shootings, of black men. That act of protest divided the country between those who agree with Kaepernick and those who feel he and the players who followed his example disrespected the flag.
Social media posters were not shy about expressing their feelings. Neither were NFL owners. Kaepernick has yet to find a team that will take him.
A St. Mary man even sued the Saints for his season ticket fees in December 2017, saying the protests by New Orleans player ruined his enjoyment of the game.
Other fans seemed to agree. Attendance at NFL games was down about 400,000 from 2015 to 17.2 million in 2018. NFL ratings were down 8-10 percent in each of the two years after the protests began, NBC reported.
It’s hard to tell how much of the decline resulted from the protests and how much came from the splintering of the audience due to expanded cable offerings and online streaming services.
But for three hours Sunday, Louisiana was anything but splintered. Our attention was fixed on a patch of artificial turf under a noisy dome in New Orleans.
Louisiana people were together.
Bill Decker is managing editor of The Daily Review.