By Marc Daniels
Roger Clemens got it. Greg Maddux mastered it. Michael Jordan perfected it. It's not luck. It's earned over a period of time, where one excels and clearly is better than all competitors. We get used to their success and expect nothing less than a favorable outcome when they perform. So why would anyone be surprised when it shines right before your eyes?
What did Clemens, Maddux and Jordan get that others didn't? The benefit of the doubt and the calls that went their way. Clemens dominated with an overpowering fastball and Maddux could throw a ball to the exact spot he wanted and Jordan, well he got whatever he needed because he was just better than everyone. If Clemens and Maddux threw a pitch close to the strike zone there's a good chance they got the call, even if it was a bit outside. Long before we put boxes on the TV screen to show the supposed strike zone umpires just happened to widen the zone for the game's best. When Michael Jordan took that third step or initiated contact referees didn't call traveling and certainly not an offensive foul. Why? Because it's good for business.
Referees and officials are human. We all have memory banks in our brain. We all have images that we recall when situations arise. They see, firsthand, the best players and teams that outperform others and while they are supposed to call games fairly and as the rule book states, they react to great players and great teams and assume- at times- the better player or team is doing it right or better.
Imagine calling a baseball playoff game at Yankees Stadium with a packed stadium and the fans standing and screaming with a two strike count on the batter during a key moment late in the game and Gerrit Cole is pitching(already a fantasy since Cole never pitches past the seventh inning as a Yankee). You think when Cole zips a 100-mile-per hour fastball just outside the K-Zone box on your screen that an ump doesn't ring up the batter? You see it all the time. The same goes for LeBron James driving into the lane and running over a defender, but the whistle will be for a block not a charge on King James.
All this brings us to college football, the sport where the value of your brand is a huge factor in many areas. It plays a role in the ranking of teams and clearly plays a role in how games are called by officials. When Nick Saban yells at a ref because he thinks his wide receiver is being held it matters more than when Eli Drinkwitz does on the sidelines at Missouri. You are more likely to see a holding call on a key drive against Eastern Michigan against Michigan than you would if the situation was reversed. Why? Because the better team or brand always get the benefit of the doubt...as we saw on the final play of the Texas A&M and Alabama game Saturday night.
We can question the play-call of Jimbo Fisher all you want, but look at the picture below. Alabama's Terrion Arnold clearly makes contact with Texas A&M's Evan Stewart. You can scream all you want that officials can't make a call in that spot and the players should decide the game. And my response is, what the heck does that even mean? Did he make contact before the ball arrived? If he did, it's pass interference and A&M gets another play. There was no flag and the game was over
I'm not even bothered by the call because...I've accepted this is the officiating world we live in.
Look, I've screamed for years that one of the things I never understand about college football is the fact we have conference officials. It makes no sense and the only thing it does is it creates the image of a bias towards one team. A holding in the SEC is the same as in the Big Ten, ACC and Pac 12. Why do we need conference officials? Rate the refs and assign the best to the biggest and place refs regionally. A crew could work an SEC game one week and ACC game the next and maybe a game in the AAC the following week.
I know, you are screaming that what bias would there be in theTexas A&M-Alabama since both are in the SEC? Alabama is good for business my friend. Their dynastic run benefits everyone in the SEC. The more Alabama wins the more money everyone in the league makes. Keeping the Crimson Tide ranked atop, or close to the top, is good for business. Making sure Alabama is in position to make the playoffs and win another title, is good for business.
Do I think the official standing in front of that final play was thinking all this as the play happened? No, I do not. Do I think the SEC tells officials before a game who should get calls late in the game? No, I do not. I just think officials are human and know who the best teams, with the best players and the best coaches are and they react. Barring a complete tackle of the receiver, there was no way a flag was going to be thrown.
Yes, I am aware of the turnovers and penalties Alabama had in the game. Sometimes you have to throw the flag when it's obvious, but sometimes you don't...when it's obvious.
If Texas A&M was 5-0 and ranked 3rd instead of being 3-2 and unranked, maybe there would have been a flag. But right now, Jimbo Fisher complaining all game on the sideline doesn't have the same influence as Nick Saban.
Texas A&M had chances to win even before that final play and even if a pass interference was called, there is no guarantee the Aggies would have scored on the next play. But I'm thinking for the rest of the season Alabama has a better chance of getting a few more calls than Texas A&M. Why? Because it's good for business...
Nuggets: Jordan Travis and Tyler Van Dyke would love to have their final passes back. Both the Seminoles and Canes were driving to win or tie. For FSU, a defensive back rerouted Mycah Pittman and Travis threw out as Pittman cut in and that led to the pick and FSU never got a chance for a game-winning field goal. Van Dyke threw for almost 500 yards but overthrew the intended receiver and North Carolina ended hopes of a potential field goal to tie the game. The Noles are now 4-2 with Clemson this week and Miami has lost three straight and sits 2-3. I think FSU still feels good about things halfway through the season sitting at 4-2. Miami is 2-3 and no Canes fan thought this before the season started. All the hype in Coral Gables about a run to the ACC title game has now turned into "well, Mario inherited a mess that Manny left behind."...In Florida's 24-17 win over Mizzou, Anthony Richardson was 8-for-14 for 66 yards and he ran for 45. After six games, Richardson is completing 56% of his passes for 1,182 yards and he has five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has also rushed for 286 yards and five scores. The Gators are 4-2 but I don't think Florida fans thought the numbers for Richardson would be where they are but it's also possible he may be very talented but not the explosive game-changing player many predicted. I am not saying he can't become special but what if he doesn't? That's what Billy Napier needs to find out in the final six games of the season...Alabama at Tennessee is the mid-season game of the year...The Big XII is the deepest league in the country...Pitt's Izzy Abanikanda ran 36 times for a school record 320 yards and six touchdowns. Through six games Abanikanda has carried the ball 129 times. In case you are wondering, the record for carries in a season belongs to UCF's Kevin Smith. Smith carried the rock 450 times in 2007...
Final note: Based on the world's population, it's likely that 20 million people share your birthday.