FANS THINK FIX WAS IN FOR CHARGERS-STEELERS
We need to start this item off by explaining unequivocally that we don’t think that NFL games are fixed. Bad calls happen, but we believe that they’re simply that -- bad calls. Human error. We don’t buy for a second that there’s something more sinister happening. But we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t point out that we’ve been flooded by e-mails tonight regarding the perception that the game between the Chargers and the Steelers was in some way fixed. Again, we don’t buy it. But we can understand why some fans might believe it (albeit incorrectly), given the bizarre manner in which the last play of the game was handled, with the Steelers losing a defensive touchdown that would have caused them to cover the spread. Several other readers have pointed out the fact that the Steelers were penalized 13 times for 115 yards. The Chargers were flagged twice (including the illegal forward pass on the final play) for a total of five yards. Again, we think that the game was called on the level. But the disparity in penalty yardage is causing some to believe that it wasn’t. The surrounding circumstances won’t prompt many/any of the conspiracy theorists to conclude that the outcome of this one was legit. Chairman Dan Rooney is trying to come up with $750 million or so in cash and financing to buy out his brothers. Why? Because the other official family industry is gambling, and those who prefer to profit via games of chance are being required to sell their stake in a team that originally was bought after family patriarch Art Rooney, Sr., had a big run at the track. Again, we do not believe that the game was rigged, or that anything improper occurred. But what we think doesn’t matter; if enough average fans become sufficiently convinced that something improper went down, it becomes a problem for the NFL. In the post-Donaghy era of pro sports, the NFL needs to be more vigilant than ever not only to avoid actual impropriety, but to eliminate any potential appearance of it. Hopefully, Sunday’s events will cause the NFL to look for ways to make their procedures even better.