I’ve been a football fan for most of my life. As I always end up mentioning in almost every article I pen… I was born in 1984, but really became cognizant of the Vikings in the early 90’s, especially after Sean Salisbury visited my middle school (Webster Open, Represent! Just kidding, if you went to Webster you can’t read this…) and openly spit talked all over my sister’s gym class. I bring this up because around the time I really stared getting into the Vikings (1998) the internet was also a major force in my life.
If you like the Vikings, or football, enough to spend time reading/debating/writing about it/them online (Or if you get drunk at any VFW) you’re aware of an underlying theory that always tends to pop up around Super Bowl time. That theory is that the NFL is rigged, in any number of ways and that, essentially, we’re all being duped. The games are either choreographed by the players or controlled by the refs. The league does this, people say, because they want larger markets to be more involved in the season/playoffs and because they want to create and force narratives.
UPDATE: Internet still really stupid. pic.twitter.com/NJzkZnqzru
— Tim Ryan (@TheSportsHernia) February 7, 2017
Typically you get one weirdo in a line of Facebook comments that screams, “IT’S ALL RIGGED, THE MAFIA AND JUNK!” around this time of year. But, because of how the Super Bowl ended this year it seems like the idea that the NFL is just a (Less) violent soap opera for men seems to be picking up more steam than a … Clam… Store? These comments have permeated all of the articles that I’ve written about Sunday night’s classic, and because of that I felt compelled to respond to everyone, en masse… My response is… THERE IS NO WAY IN DANTE’S VERSION OF HELL THAT THE NFL IS RIGGED. None.
The question then becomes how do I know that?
Well, let’s simply look at the facts. Each season there are nearly 1,700 active players (Meaning players on the 32 teams 53 man rosters) at any given time playing in the NFL. That doesn’t include practice squad players or even players that tried out during training camp. These players have a typical career of about three years in the league, and then as we’ve been learning more and more as these players age, they end up with a ton of injuries and terrible healthcare and pensions for their trouble (Oh, and about 75% of them are bankrupt within two years of retirement). The fight between the NFL (Owners) and the players union have been well documented and even lead to a strike in the late 80’s.
You’re telling me that with a league that is comprised of that many players, many of which end up broke and horrifically injured, that no one has come forward to say that every game is carefully choreographed? They have every reason to and because people are people, it’s simply impossible that if that were true, we wouldn’t have actual proof (Or at least the testimony of multiple players) by now. That’s not to mention the complexity it would require to choreograph a game as complicated (At least as it applies to the amount of variables) as football is.
Each game, at least from a starters perspective, requires 44 players to be in on the same goal. Requires players to pretend to win, or better yet, pretend to lose in front of 100 camera’s and 50,000 fans? Wouldn’t there be ample evidence of players just falling down, or not trying? Not to mention that it requires things like …
…This to be planned? Sure, you could say that they have an outline and the players just need to go by that (Let Atlanta run up the score, then have the Patriots come back at the very last minute…) as opposed to telling them what plays to run or for things like the above to happen. But, that’s just it… They can’t choreograph things like the above and when you see THREE players going after Julian Edelman on this play, you have to wonder… Wouldn’t they have allowed him to catch this ball if the goal was to lose? What about other things they can’t control? Like injuries? Why hit Tom Brady as many times as the Falcons did in the first half, if the narrative is that he is going to come back at the last second and win the game? You can’t control injury, so why hit the main player in the narrative that many times?
Like many rants on the internet (and most of my personal relationships), of course this falls apart upon further inspection. Unless, of course, it’s not the players, or the coaches, but the refs…
Now, as someone who blacked out halfway through the 2009 NFC Championship, I understand what it feels like to question the motives of the referees. I felt (And still feel) that the narrative of The Saints and Hurricane Katrina subconsciously played into the outcome of that game/season. Sure, the NFL LOVED the coverage that the Saints got because of those conditions, and perhaps the refs did want to give them the benefit of the doubt on most of those Favre hits… But, that wouldn’t explain the fact that the Saints were flagged over 10 times in that game, and the punishments that were dolled out in 2010 because of that game/season. Either. I get hating the refs and the Saints, I even wrote my magnum opus about two weeks ago that highlighted EVERY late hit/cheap play in that game (I’m still working on getting that back up on the new site). But I still don’t believe that the refs or the league had an active role in the outcome of that game.
Beyond that, the NFL is nearly a $10 billion dollar a year behemoth. Why, in a million years, would they risk their credibility or income by controlling the outcome of their product? There is no actual incentive, they don’t need one. Sure, on paper (at least initially) they would and could make more money if the New York Giants player the New York Jets in the Super Bowl, as opposed to some team from the Midwest that has a smaller fan-base. But, history hasn’t proved that large market teams have had an advantage when it comes to winning the Super Bowl, because the risk so greatly outweighs the negligible benefit that it honestly makes no sense for them to constantly force large market teams into their winning narrative. If you think about it, the NFL actually makes more money when small markets get more involved, as it builds their TV ratings, their revenue, their power and their overall reach. So, outside of perhaps the 2% drop in ratings when two smaller markets end up in the big game, I just don’t see how or why they’d risk literally everything for something that doesn’t even exist.
The fact is, America loves the process of building someone or something up, tearing it down and waiting for some sort of redemption. When teams like the Patriots refuse to enter the second part of that cycle, people begin to find ways to diminish their accomplishments. It’s human nature, and I’m sure that it served some sort of biological/evolutionary purpose back when we body shamed Neanderthals, but now it’s just kind of annoying and transparent…
… I mean, if things were “Rigged” but at the same time the Patriots “Cheated”, why would they need to cheat if things were rigged in their favor? Why would the Commissioner of the NFL have beef with Tom Brady? See? None of this actually makes sense, but it at least tore through the writers block I developed this morning, and gave me something to write/rant about at midnight, in the dark, like the people I’m responding to. #Solidarity
So. No, the NFL isn’t rigged. Our team is just super unlucky and cursed. That’s an internal problem, not an external one (Outside of 2009… Of course), so while I can empathize with your frustration, I can’t co-sign any of it. Believe me, I’d love to, I’m a human too (Kind of) and understand that disappointment creates emotion and that people typically need to point that emotion at someone else to process it. To find blame for that feeling. So, it’s easy to blame the NFL or the Patriots for that pain, but in reality, it’s just self induced and the reason why we as Vikings fans, need to stick together and focus on real issues, like the Offensive Line or whoever or whatever cursed the team back in 1961…