Monday, September 24, 2012

NFL Games Fixed? Seattle Win Raises Questions

This Seattle win stinks, really stinks.

It's unnerving. Is the fix on in the NFL? Dig down and you may see something ugly--or smell something really foul.

On Monday night Seattle beat Green Bay on the last play of the game, in the Seahawks' stadium, turning what would have been a 12-7 Green Bay win into a 14-12 Seattle win.  This robbery, this bogus victory is a black-eye on the NFL, a questionable outcome that calls the integrity of the game into question.

Here's what happened. With eight seconds left in the game, the Seahawks were in desperation mode, trailing 12-7 on the Green Bay 24. All that was left was a Hail Mary pass which, of course, almost never works. Seattle rookie QB Russell Wilson threw up a prayer, which looked, with several  players jumping for the ball, like it was intercepted by Green Bay defender M.D. Jennings. But Seattle receiver Golden Tate had a hand on it. Replays showed that Jennings had the ball clutched to his chest, with Tate's hand in there somewhere. If you had to assign percentages, it was 85% Jennings' ball and 15% Tate's. Not only that, before getting involved in the catch, Tate had flagrantly pushed a Green Bay defender to get into position for the catch, a foul that wasn't called. One official even motioned that the pass was intercepted, but he was overruled. Tate was credited with a 24-yard TD pass. Game over. Seattle wins.

The officials had a chance to right the wrong. But after a replay review, they didn't overturn the TD call. Though the Green Bay team had left the field, they begrudgingly sent some defenders back so that Seattle could attempt an extra point and make the game official. In the TV booth, veteran NFL official Gerry Austin was livid, angrily charging that the refs had stolen the game from Green Bay.

There was a sense this tight, penalty-filled game was edging in Seattle's direction when, with 6:14  left in the fourth quarter, and Seattle, behind, facing an impossible situation, 1st and long  in their own territory. But they were bailed out by a 32-yard pass interference call against Green Bay's Sam Shields. Actually it should have been a penalty against Seattle's Sidney Rice, for mugging Shields. It was such an obvious horrible call, in Seattle's favor, that the announcers, who generally try to be neutral, boldly cried foul. Seattle, which might have had to punt, changing the tone of the game, was gift-wrapped a first-down in Green Bay territory.

Blame the ineptness of replacement officials? Maybe. But this reeks of  more than that.

In the shadowy world of sports gambling, you hear rumblings, among those in these circles, about attempts  being made to fix NFL games, to get officials to make calls to influence scores--mainly to effect the point spread, not wins or losses. Earlier this afternoon there was buzzing, in these circles, about how underdog Seattle would not only beat the three-point spread but win outright. Certain insiders were tipped to bet on Seattle.

What's different now is that replacement officials are vulnerable to the fix. The gamblers know that. corrupting veteran officials is tough. These guys have survived fix-attempts before and are inclined to stay clean. But these replacement officials are more likely to be lured by the quick buck.

Lurking behind this officials-lockout was always the fear that the replacement officials might succumb to corruption.There have been suspicions that some may already have turned down that dark street. Check out the evidence. Ridiculous calls in these first few weeks have tilted the spread of some games. But this Green Bay-Seattle game is the first to be openly and clearly decided by officiating.

Most will caution that the NFL game is still fix-free and the replacement officials are just incompetent. But the Seattle game smells. It's over the line. Even insiders are leery. Some high-rollers who were on the wrong side of this Green Bay-Seattle score are steaming. They were counting their victory dollars one moment,
and then preparing to pay back losses the next.

The team owners had better come to their senses and get rid of these replacements jerks. Something is rotten in the NFL and it's not just the replacement officials.