Not me. Not this year.
That’s what I said two weeks ago. After all, I’d just seen what I considered the biggest job of robbery ever committed in the National Football League.
If ever there had been a more obvious defensive foul, I couldn’t remember when it was. It was so obvious, even the Commissioner of the NFL admitted a pass interference penalty should have been called against the Los Angeles Rams as New Orleans drove to an almost certain score in the NFC championship game.
However, no penalty flag was thrown. It seemed inconceivable to me that not a single referee had spotted such an obvious infraction.
Many years ago, I played basketball and baseball in both high school and college. More than one of my coaches had told me over and over that “referees don’t lose games – teams lose games.” They said that only losers blame officials, that winners will always find a way to win and overcome any bad breaks that come their way during games.
Those words spoken years ago slowly began coming back into my mind. Still, it was very hard to accept that every player on the field, every player and coach on the sideline and every one of millions of television viewers saw the obvious pass interference on the field, but not one of the officials saw the infraction.
My mind was made up though – this Super Bowl would be the first I’d not watched since the first two. And, why you might ask, did I miss the first two Super Bowls, given that my beloved Green Bay Packers were playing in both? It’s simple: I was overseas in the Army when those first two Super Bowls were played.
The first Super Bowl I watched was No. 3. I was certain, of course, that the established National Football Conference would make it three in a row. Baltimore’s Colts had a powerful lineup in those days, led by famed quarterback Johnny Unitas.
Like most of America, I was certain that the Colts would have an easy time against Kansas City.
All of us, and most of the nation, were stunned as the Chiefs upset the Colts and gave the AFC its first-ever Super Bowl victory.
That brought almost instant parity to professional football, something that most “experts” said wouldn’t come for years.
I’ve not missed a Super Bowl since, even though my beloved Packers have made only a couple more appearances and won only once, when Brett Favre was the quarterback. That was Super Bowl 31 – or Super Bowl XXXI. They beat New England in New Orleans. They lost the next year to Denver, a game played in San Diego.
As Sunday turned to Monday and Monday to Tuesday … and so on … I began rationalizing. “Why shouldn’t I watch the Super Bowl?” I asked myself. I thought more and more about those words a high school coach said to me so many years ago. They began echoing in my head: “Referees don’t lose games – teams lose games.”
Finally, I admitted to myself that everyone is human – even blind referees who miss such an obvious pass interference.
So, I sat down to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl. For the first time in more than half a century, though, I really didn’t care which team won. I don’t like teams that win all the time, so I couldn’t pull for New England in this one. And, I don’t like teams I don’t believe belong in the game. So, I couldn’t pull for Los Angeles.
There was another reason I couldn’t back the Rams in this one and it goes way back in history. I thought about the Colts. Old-timers, like me, will remember the Colts began as the Baltimore Colts. Then, in the middle of the night in 1979, the Colts simply packed up and moved to Indianapolis, leaving Baltimore without a team.
And, I thought, “Well, the Rams did the same thing.”
Few will remember that the Rams were first the Cleveland Rams, playing in Municipal Stadium on Lake Erie from 1936 until 1946 when they became the Los Angeles Rams. They stayed there until 1995 when they moved to St. Louis. They moved back to Los Angeles again in 2016, leaving St. Louis high and dry.
Of course, the Rams were the second NFL team to desert St. Louis. The Chicago Cardinals, another long-time NFL franchise evolved from a team called the Morgan Athletic Club that began in Chicago in 1898. They were charter members of the NFL when it was formed in the 1920s. Financial woes, caused mainly by the beloved Chicago Bears, finally caused the Cardinals to move to St. Louis. They remained for 28 seasons, despite some confusion between the baseball Cardinals and football Cardinals, both of which had red as their main uniform colors.
Eventually, the Cardinals relocated to Arizona where they remain today. That left St. Louis without a pro football team until the Rams filled that void.
Because of the way they left St. Louis, I couldn’t cheer for the Rams. I guess the best I can say about Sunday’s 53rd Super Bowl was that I watched it – kickoff to finish – keeping a personal streak alive.