I’m not really one to believe in conspiracies. They’re really nothing but speculation and simply a waste of time.
But what happened Sunday evening at Cowboys Stadium is really quite interesting.
If you haven’t heard by now, on a critical third down for the Detroit Lions, who were up by three with roughly eight minutes to go in the game, Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens appeared to interfere with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The back judge threw his flag on the play, and it was announced as pass interference.
But then the official closest to the play came in and the call was reversed with no explanation given on the field. Included in it was Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant coming onto the field without a helmet to argue the call. Then later in the ensuing Dallas drive, the officials missed a holding call on a fourth-and-six, which the Cowboys picked up en route to scoring the game-winning touchdown.
There’s certainly not enough evidence to say that this is definitively a conspiracy, but the series of events, plus the fact that NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino was seen on the Cowboys’ party bus during the preseason certainly raises some eyebrows.
First off, the original call-then-non-call that set all of this off is only bad because of the way it was handled. Had the flag been thrown, or not even thrown at all, discussed and then announced either as pass interference or no foul at all, there’s likely some backlash from Detroit fans. But because it was announced and then reversed with no explanation at the time, it allowed people to draw conclusions, most of them, right or wrong, that something was up.
Then everything that followed only added to that. Bryant coming onto the field without a helmet, then the missed holding call added to the fire of Lions fans and raised eyebrows of the neutral observer. Right or wrong, there were questions raised about how the game was being officiated and whether or not the fix was in fact in.
But the kicker for all of this is the incident with Blandino back in August. It unlikely that Blandino would mess up his reputation by being “bought out” by the Cowboys by being on that party bus, but it raised eyebrows then and it’s really raising eyebrows now. And I’m willing to bet that there are some other NFL executives that aren’t to thrilled about this.
I’m also willing to bet that this isn’t a conspiracy by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, this is the Cowboys, “America’s Team,” and television ratings for this weekend’s Divisional Round game in Green Bay will be through the roof, but there’s no way the nation’s biggest sports league would ruin it’s reputation, which has already taken a tremendous hit this season, by fixing a game.
But there’s no doubt that, at the very least, the sequence of events that helped the Cowboys to the win, but not necessarily gave them the game, is suspicious, and at best it raises some eyebrows.