It’s fitting that, in a year when the NFL had so many of its worst qualities on full display, that we were given a final game like the one America endured last night, a game that was on the verge of becoming the absolute shittiest Super Bowl of all time before the 49ers woke up and turned it into a prolonged cocktease. Ravens/Niners was a microcosm of everything that went wrong with the NFL this season, including:
1. Horrible officiating. There’s something dispiriting about a game whose outcome turns on whether the ref decides to throw a flag. Niners wideout Michael Crabtree was clearly held by Ravens corner Jimmy Smith on San Francisco’s doomed fourth down attempt at the end of the game. You could see Smith holding onto Crabtree’s jersey. Outside of Baltimore, I don’t think anyone would have bitched about a flag being thrown on that play (especially since it would have probably led to a far more exciting final minute of regulation). Just like during the replacement ref debacle in the season’s first three weeks, you got the sense that the outcome last night was more or less arbitrary: that the NFL is still frantically trying to alter the fundamental nature of football on the fly, and the game itself is losing any sense of structure because of it. But again, I’m just bitching because that ending was a real letdown, man.
2. Violence. Think the NFL is a barbaric sport that sends unwitting players to an early demise? Well then, you had a great chance to put on your angry pants during the first-half scuffle in which Ravens corner Cary Williams got stepped on by an opposing player and then went absolutely batshit, pushing a ref but somehow managing to avoid being tossed from the game. Of course, it was easy to overlook this whole fracas because CBS barely bothered to replay it, which brings us to…
3. Miserable, awful, terrible broadcasting. That CBS failed to go back and show Williams getting stepped on was a bizarre oversight, but it was hardly surprising on a night when the network acted as if it were broadcasting a live football game for the first time. When Crabtree got held at the end of the game, I swear to you that analyst Phil Simms said it was a good no-call because it was so late in the game. A human being actually thought this was a logical thing to say, that it’s somehow wise of an official to completely ignore infractions depending upon what time of day it is. Why is this person allowed to speak during the game?