1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

This Super Bowl is living a lie

The NFL is ignoring that it got it all wrong with the Rams being in the big game.
Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) defends against New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (11) during the second half the NFL football NFC championship game Sunday, [AJan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23.(Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster)
Published Jan. 29
Updated Jan. 29


The big lie.

Super Bowl media night was Monday – all the same questions, all the same overkill. There’s no stopping this overblown week. Insert Patriots joke here.

I’ve got a bigger joke.

This illegitimate Super Bowl.

The Rams should not be playing the Patriots. The Rams should not be playing anyone.

The New Orleans Saints should be in the game. They know it, we know it. Blatant, outrageous pass interference on Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman wasn’t called. And that makes this game a joke. The NFL played 256 regular-season games, added 10 playoff games and still got it dead wrong. And I’m not saying that because my son the Saints fan slammed doors for three days. Okay, maybe a little. I like my house in one piece.

But the first rule for any sports league is have the right two teams play for the championship.

Is that really that hard to do?

The NFL blew it. Ten days later and it still blew it. And the silence from the league and its’ commissioner is deafening. It’s the elephant in the Super buildup. I don’t particularly like listening to Saints coach Sean Payton. It’s against my better judgement. But the Saints should be in the Super Bowl. They are not.

Forget buying tickets to the game. I’d scalp tickets to Roger Goodell’s annual state of the league news conference.

Commissioner, about having the wrong team in the game …

The NFL generates billions in revenue, but it can’t get its conference champions right.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady were pilloried by the league for Deflategate in 2015 for attempting to affect the integrity of the competition. Good. Served them right. But what says less about the integrity of competition than having the wrong team in your ultimate competition?

I know this league has bigger problems, like retired players posthumously donating their brains to CTE research, but going 1-fo-2 on Super Bowl teams is a biggie.

The NFL remains tone deaf. The closest it has come to acknowledging what happened is when Robey-Coleman was fined $26,000 for an illegal hit on the play in question. Illegal hit, but no pass interference, no Saints keep the ball, no run the clock all the way down, no winning field goal as time expires. It casts a pall over this Super Bowl that a hundred halftime shows wouldn’t erase.

People should have been talking to Drew Brees, not Jared Goff, on media night, to Alvin Kamara, not Todd Gurley, to Payton, not wunderkind coach Sean McVay.

An illegitimate game.

This isn’t like when Don Denkinger blew a call in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, opening the door for the Kansas City Royals to beat the St. Louis Cardinals that night and in Game 7. I mean, the Cardinals had chances to win.

Yeah, I guess you could say the Saints had plenty of chances to win and that Brees didn’t have to throw the interception in overtime.

But Brees shouldn’t have had to throw any overtime pass at all.

This was over. Done.

The Rams don’t deserve to hear about this all week.

They don’t deserve to be in this game, either.

Payton seems like a miserable guy. He’d probably beat Belichick in a grump off. Payton is the same Payton who was suspended for a season for his role in the New Orleans bounty scandal. But that’s not the point. The point is that this league is going on with the party and acting as if nothing happened.

I’m not blaming the officiating crew for having their eyes painted on. I blame the system. And the system needs to be addressed before next season. There is too much money on the line. And then there is that trophy.

Baseball has replay. Even hockey has replay. Guys sit in command centers in New York and Toronto, respectively, and review reviewable plays and let officials on site know what went down. That’s what football needs. Not that it will do the Saints any good, but that’s what the NFL needs, otherwise it’s Jeffrey Maier times one hundred.

I mean, you bring in $9 billion you can’t have a guy watching a screen buzz the referee’s ear piece and let him know what his crew missed?

Yeah, those same guys watching the screens will probably also see holding on ever play, only because there is. Some kinks will need to be worked out, but you get the idea.

There is a story from last week about Bill Vinovich, the referee in that NFC title game, being heckled while working his other job, as a basketball referee at a BYU-St. Mary’s game in Provo, Utah. When you’re taking heat at a BYU-St. Mary’s game, you know it’s bad.

Not for nothing, but St. Mary’s lost. Its nickname is the Saints.

But this isn’t about people being people. It’s about a system that’s broken. And the NFL just rewarded it by ignoring it, nothing to see here, move along, enjoy the fan zone.

It’s a fraud. It’s an illegitimate Super Bowl, nothing less.

Flag for me for unsportsmanlike conduct.

But what’s sportsmanlike about a lie?

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029. Follow mjfennelly.


  1. Tampa Bay Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. TONY GUTIERREZ  |  AP
    And don’t discount the tight end’s blocking abilities. Coaches and teammates expect the breakout moments in the receiving game will come.
  2. Ronde Barber returns an interception for a touchdown that clinched the Bucs' 27-10 win over Philadelphia in the 2002 NFC Championship game. The play sent the Bucs to Super Bowl 37 in San Diego. JASON BEHNKEN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Bucs Ring of Honor ceremony 2019: Ronde Barber always had an edge — real or imagined — and it made the Buccaneers defensive back one of the greatest of all time.
  3. In this Sept. 15 file photo, New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown (17) on the sidelines,during the first half against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots released Brown on Friday. LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP
    New England had signed Brown this month hours after he was released by Oakland.
  4. New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) breaks away for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) ADAM HUNGER  |  AP
    Coaching staff presents Bucs a Saquon highlight reel in an effort to prevent a sequel from the running back.
  5. Running back Peyton Barber has 31 carries this season, the 11th most over the first two weeks of the NFL season. Is that what's best for the Bucs offense? MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    In this preview: Why the Giants would have been better off the past four seasons with Jameis Winston instead of Eli Manning. Plus, how the G-Men will attack the Bucs defense and why you should keep an...
  6. It's early, but Jameis Winston (3) and the Bucs defense has Tampa Bay in first place in the NFC South. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco) BRIAN BLANCO  |  AP
    Martin Fennelly: That 1-1 start feels a little ragged, but things are breaking right so far for the Bucs.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (45) takes the field for warm ups before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Tampa, Florida.  MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Rookie inside linebacker didn’t practice all week.
  8. Bucs running back Peyton Barber will be key in helping Tampa Bay elevate its struggling defense. MIKE MCCARN  |  AP
    New York enters with quarterback Daniel Jones starting his first NFL game
  9. Tim Tebow. [Associated Press)] Associated Press
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Tom Jones and Rick Stroud debate Tebow, Dickie V, the first-place Bucs and the Rays playoff chase
  10. Paul Spicer, left, is now a defensive line coach at the University of South Florida. Skyler Fulton, right, is now a wide receivers coach at Portland State University. University of South Florida | Portland State University
    Former Bucs assistants Paul Spicer and Skyler Fulton faced accusations of violence against women before coaching in Tampa Bay under Dirk Koetter, according to a USA Today investigation.