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Watching Monday Night Football

I'm not a football guy.  I mean, I like it fine, I've watched it a lot over the years, but as compared to basketball, I know pretty much nothing.

I've got the Vikings-Patriots MNF game on in the background here, and I've now seen the worst of three big calls that have gone the Patriots way in this game, and an analogy to the NBA has occurred to me.

There are some things that I really hate about the NBA.  

  • The defensive three second rule - they should eliminate the rule and just let teams play what ever defense they want.

  • The rampant traveling that is completely ignored by game officials.

  • And most importantly of all, the superstar system that gives calls to some players and teams but not to others.

We all know about the players that get (and expect to get) every call - LeBron, DWade, Kobe... why officials think that the best, most talented players should be given other advantages in addition to their Flying Spaghetti Monster-given talent is beyond me.  And though I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist, it is so blatant, one wonders if there are secret meetings with officials in which David Stern explains in whom the NBA has entrusted its future.  

This can also be true of a few select 'defensive' specialists (Bruce Bowen is allowed to hold where a mere defensive mortal is not, Ben Wallace is allowed to do anything he wants), and also of teams.  The Pistons, after winning their title in 2004, had such a reputation for team defense, that the refs seemed not to realize that even good defensive teams were capable of committing fouls.  It has gotten to the point in Detroit that every Piston argues every call, regardless of how obvious the foul, as if they are saying, "C'mon, we're the Pistons!"

New England was going to win this game anyway, and like I said, I haven't watched that closely.  But in the little bit I've watched I've seen

  • a rare Minnesota first down overturned by an offensive pass interference call that had Kornheiser laughing out loud
  • a non-call of pass interference that would have resulted in a Viking first and goal, where the receiver was unable to get his second hand up to catch a pass because the defender grabbed it (these situations are particularly maddening - sometimes a penalty is called when the ball wasn't going to be caught anyway - this ball was going to be caught - the pass was there, the receiver was there, the defender was beaten, so he grabbed the guys arm - no flag.  I mean, c'mon.)
  • and the most egregious, a clear catch for a first down, the closest official signals it's a catch, some other officials come over and huddle with him IN EARSHOT OF BELICHICK, the original call is overturned so that it is ruled incomplete, and then the replay official upholds the call.  The went out of their way to get it wrong on the field, and then got it wrong in the booth too.  It was a joke.  I don't like Theisman, but he did the righteous indignation thing pretty well on this one.

So, I don't watch enough football to know, but what the hell is going on here?  Are these just three random bad calls that all happened to go the same way?  Or is there an NFL equivalent of the NBA superstar system, where the Patriots get calls, because, hey, they're the Patriots and they must be in the right or they wouldn't have won all the Super Bowls?