Over the break, we bore witness to perhaps two of the most exciting and controversial weeks of football, both college and pro, that will be talked about for years to come. Arguments will abound concerning the fates of playoff games decided by calls and non-calls, and the supposed blunders of the NFL and its referees.
However, if we take specific examples from two games, it’s obvious that the referees had no part in deciding the game. Instead, two individual players cost their respective teams their game, and at the same time emphasized a lesson to be learned by all professional athletes: keep your mouth shut.
Our first example is the national championship game, the Fiesta Bowl, between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Miami Hurricanes, defending champions. With the score knotted at 17 heading into the first overtime (the first overtime game in national championship history), the game was shaping up to be a classic. The Hurricanes looked to have the title secure after taking the ball on the Ohio State 25-yard line and promptly pushing the ball across the goal line on a beautiful pass from Dorsey to tight end Kellen Winslow II, son of Hal of Famer Kellen Winslow.
This catch capped a huge night for Winslow, as he finished with 11 catches for 122 yards and the one touchdown. As the ABC cameras followed the Miami offense back to the bench, Winslow, acting as he had all year, thinking that he was God’s gift to tight ends, flashed his index finger to the camera, bobbed his head, mouthed “We’re number one”, and proceeded to do it again, thinking that the Buckeyes had no chance to score and send the game into a second overtime.
Fortunately enough for football fans around the country, the Buckeyes did manage to score (on a good call), and consequently shoved every “we’re number one” gesture that Winslow had managed to display back into his face. You angered the football gods, Kellen, and they came back to bite you in a big way.
Kellen’s future may not be so bright either, if the football gods have anything to do about it. After the game, he told the media, “They didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves. We’re the best team in the country. They’re not. We just beat ourselves. We didn’t execute.” Oops. Wrong thing to say. Actually, they did beat you. The score was 31-24. And the only reason that you “didn’t execute” was because the Buckeye defense dominated you, save for your 11 catches. So, Miami fans, don’t blame the refs, blame Kellen Winslow II.
Then we come to everyone’s favorite pro team, and consequently everyone’s favorite tight end, the New York Giants and their All-Pro rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey. Against the 49ers, Shockey caught a touchdown and proceeded to do a little jig and consequently walk over to a TV camera, point it at himself and then to the beleaguered San Francisco fans sitting behind the endzone.
Jeremy, weren’t you watching your alma mater lose the national championship game? Didn’t you see Winslow cost his team the game?
Well, obviously not, for the football gods once again got revenge upon Shockey and all of New York, as a potential touchdown to seal the game slipped right through his hands, leading to only 3 points, and the utter collapse of the New York defense followed. The disastrous loss for the Giants is divine retribution for Shockey’s terrible displays throughout the whole season, as he celebrated every catch and first down like he had made a catch to win the Superbowl. So, Giants fans, for one of the most heartbreaking losses in your playoff history, don’t blame the refs for missing the pass interference call, thank Jeremy Shockey.
Winslow and Shockey can take tips from teams such as the Tennessee Titans, a team made up of absolutely zero probowlers, count them, zero, a team that gets the job done on the field, and quietly goes about their business on the road towards the Superbowl. You wont find any Shockeys or Winslows on this team, just winners.