By now we all know exactly what happened at the end of regulation in the NFC Championship game. The refs blew a blatant pass interference call that could've sent the Saints to the Super Bowl. Yes, there were other plays that could have been made in the game that would have resulted in this play either being a moot point, or it not having occurred at all. Nevertheless, it happened, guilt by all parties involved was admitted, and it won't change a damn thing.
The sad part is that there's nothing new under the sun, and screwjobs are a part of that. Things like this have gone on for years in one way, shape, form, or another. Here's a look at several scewjobs that are either proven/acknowledged, or widely accepted:
2002 NBA Western Conference Finals game six
Disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy
The Lakers were down 3-2 entering game six. They won that pivotal game 106-102 amidst a host of questionable calls. In the fourth quarter, the Lakers shot 27 free throws. Overall, they had a 40 to 25 advantage in free throw attempts in that game. The fact that convicted felon Tim Donaghy was on the ref crew that game tends to add to the idea that this game was rigged. Donaghy was sentenced to two 15-month sentences to be served concurrently and three years probation for his role in a gambling scandal on July 29, 2008. We can all thank him for forever thinking sports are rigged.
The Montreal Screwjob
Bret Hart confronting Vince McMahon backstage
November 9, 1997 will live in infamy for wrestling fans. Pro wrestling has pre-determined outcomes of every match, but this one was different. Bret Hart was set to leave then WWF for then rival WCW amidst a contract dispute. To complicate matters, he was the champ at the time. Vince McMahon didn't want Hart taking his title to his biggest rival who was threatening his existence. McMahon called for the bell prematurely while Shawn Michaels had Hart in his own submission hold and all hell broke loose. The picture used here was taken right before Hart ended up punching McMahon in the face. Hart didn't want to lose in Canada and has maintained he was never planning on taking the title with him when he left. McMahon, sporting a black eye, came on Monday Night Raw the following Monday and explained the situation famously saying "Bret screwed Bret" and the his bad guy persona of Mr. McMahon was born.
The Titanic sinking
Raymond Wong, National Geographic
Billed as the ship that would never sink, the RMS Titanic was huge disaster. It was an 883' long engineering flop that sank on it's maiden voyage. There were 2,224 people on board and more than 1,500 of them died. Most of you will only remember the movie and the song, but this was an epic fail in real life. Two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg on its sixth day in service, it was nothing more than ocean debris. Craziest thing about it was that there were a lot of rich people on board due to the first class accommodations.
The legal mafia of college athletics
Where do I even start with this load of crap? Whether it's allowing coaches to move from job to job freely while holding "student-athletes" hostage, or it's making money hand over fist while restricting those "student-athletes" from monetarily capitalizing on their image or success, the NCAA is a organization built on hypocrisy. The land is littered with stories of "student-athletes" who have been screwed by the NCAA over the years for one reason or another. The transfer portal in football has recently given a bone to football players, but it came after years of pressure. Theodore Roosevelt must be rolling in his grave.
With the signing of Josh Hader, the Astros have strengthened their bullpen. The bullpen was seen as a weakness. If you could get the starter out after five, maybe six innings and be within striking distance, you could beat the Astros. The starters were all injured or at least missed some time last season. If they were healthy, they had control issues. Now, the starters are almost all healthy (get well soon LMJ, Luis Garcia) and the bullpen has gone from weakness to maybe the best group on the team.
So…now what? What's the next move to help this team keep its championship window open? I addressed some of this last week before the Hader signing. Looking back on that, let's look forward and create a course of action for the Astros to remain in title contention for years to come:
Re-sign Jose Altuve: This is the first order of business. He's going to be 34 on May 6 and in the last year of his extension. Has his play dropped off some? Yes, but his level of play was so high, the drop-off in production is still respectable. He's the guy you think of when you think of Houston Astros baseball. You can Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio me all you want. Neither of them managed to bring a ring to this city. Bagwell won an MVP, but that's about it. Altuve is the heart and soul of this team and should retire here as long as he's somewhat productive, which he's remained.
Re-sign Kyle Tucker: While Yordan Alvarez may be the best hitter on this team now, Tucker may be the best overall player. He's got all five tools and hits lefty. Tucker will turn 28 in July and has one more year of arbitration left after this year. Then he'll hit free agency if he's not re-signed. A 29-year-old lefty with all five tools in the open market? Yeah, that deal will START somewhere in the $25-30 million per year range! GM Dana Brown is known for re-signing young talent to extensions. If he gets this one done, he'll help nail down his legacy in Houston, barely two years into the gig.
Give Cody Bellinger a Brinks truck: “Jermaine, you do realize you want them to re-sign Tucker, though?” RIGHT?!? Thank you, Captain Obvious! This team needs another bat in the outfield, like we all need to bathe and put on deodorant before we leave the house. Unfortunately like some of you, this team also tends to ignore the obvious. Having two good outfielders who can hit and are on the right side of 30 on long term deals sets you up for future success. So what if they're waiting on prospects to get to the show. How does that help the 2024 version of this team win? Do you wait until 2025? 2026? By then, most of your older core will be too old and not as good or productive. Added bonus of this move- if Tucker doesn't re-sign, you have his replacement in-house.
Alex Bregman can stay…for the right price: I love Bregman. From his brash attitude, to his style of play, even his media interactions. He's the consummate teammate. The guy learned to speak Spanish to better communicate with them, for God's sake. However, his production has had a noticeable drop. If he wants to return, he has to do so knowing he's not going to get paid what he thinks he may deserve. Let him hit the open market and find his value. If it matches the budget, fine. If not, we wish you the best in your future endeavors. He's a part of this team's lore forever, but business decisions need to be made. (This was hard for me to type!)
Make Yordan a 1st baseman: Yordan will be here for the foreseeable future. He's one of the most lovable guys on the team, and happens to be the best hitter. While I may on the wrong side of 40, so are Yordan's knees. In order to preserve him, and his knees, he needs to play 1st base. Jose Abreu and his inflated contract can have several seats. Jim Crane will have to eat this one and literally pay for not having a real GM at the time of that signing. Yordan can DH when he's playing the outfield, but if they make some of those moves listed above, he won't have to.
This team has numerous interesting prospects in the pipeline. Jacob Melton (OF) is one of them. Spencer Arrighetti (RHP) is another. Hunter Brown is already up on the big league team and made waves last season. I want to see more of these guys getting a shot while they're still young. See what they can/can't do at the big league level early on. If nothing else, it tells us what they need to work on before being called up. Or, it could help you move on from a vet. Either way, I'm digging the infusion of youth and look forward to more.