After watching the New England Patriots escape with yet another close and undeserved win this past Monday night, I knew the fines were coming. Bart Scott had thrown a flag into the stands, and several members of the Baltimore Ravens had complained about the officiating in a manner more volatile that just "heat of the moment" emotion.
But what shocked me was the totality of the league's rebuke over the players' comments, as well as their reaction to comments by Terence Newman and the whole idea of player comments in general.
I know it's been a tradition (not to mention a rule) that you don't blast the officials, and I understand they have a hard job, whether it be baseball, football, basketball, hockey, boxing, whatever. I guess my question, though, is if your comments aren't going to change the outcome anyway, then why is the league worried about them? It's kind of like baseball, where players and managers can argue calls and, as long as they don't curse or make contact with the umpire, they are usually tolerated to some degree, because the outcome has already been decided and won't change. (read up on Bill Klem sometime. He had the best way of dealing with arguing players)
As maddening as it is, the refs' calls the other night were within the realm of correctness (though I did dispute the TD catch by Gaffney). We don't expect refs to be perfect, and many of these cases were judgment calls. Do I think the league wants the Patriots to go undefeated? No way, not after Spygate. If anything, the league should want them to go winless. My own credibly superior theory is that the entire New England Patriots organization has somehow made a deal with the devil and they are all going to hell, beginning with Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick.
But I digress. Where the NFL got it wrong, though, was in basically dismissing Samari Rolle's claims of being called "boy" by referee Phil McKinnely. Now while I don't think it was racial, I do think it was offensive. Yet who gets fined? Rolle does, and I wouldn't be surprised if the fine was because he spoke to the media about filing a complaint. So Baltimore gets a double whammy by being informed that not only are all questionable calls upheld, but at the same time their one legitimate gripe is being summarily dismissed, players are being fined, and now this morning they are talking as though they were completely wrong for ever saying anything in the first place.
Which brings me to my next point. If a player makes a comment that the league finds inflammatory, that may very well deserve a fine. But what makes sports a type of Mafia in itself is that the player always seems to recant what they say. And while I do think they are sorry at times, I think most of the time they do it just so the leagues won't come down on them harder for being defiant, and that's where I have a problem.
If you say something, and you truly believe it, stand by it. If Bart Scott believes the Patriots are getting favorable treatment, he should stand by that. He's already paid the fine, and therefore he's earned the right to stick to his guns. If Tim Hardaway truly hates ****, he should stand by his statement, as much as it may offend some people. If Michael Vick truly believes it's okay to fight dogs (not saying he does, but simply what if?), he should just say so and quit pretending that he's changed when he hasn't. Yes, the league (and in Vick's case, the law) may threaten more punishment, but which is worse? An overzealous power-hungry league office, or compromising who you are? Which is exactly why fines for ripping officials should be completely done away with.
Until Next Time....There's only ooonnnnnnnneeeeee Ricky Hatton!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Prediction: Hatton KO's Floyd in 9)