MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

I truly don’t know if there is or if there isn’t; but why do you suppose there is such suspicion of conspiracies and “scripts” each week during every week of every #NFLTheTVShow season?

Maybe because there is always available data such as what follows?

It seems NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has assigned Shawn Smith as the referee for the AFC championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens Sunday in Baltimore.

According to the data, the Smith crew has been the most pro-road-team crew in recent years with home teams managing only a .408 winning percentage and 17-29-3 against the spread, per Warren Sharp of @SharpFootball, an NFL analytics and visualized data service you can easily find on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Essentially, the service, which has a large following on social media, is a very popular click for — you guessed it — gamblers.

Naturally, the fans in Baltimore, who are rooting for the home team that is favored by 3, are rather uneasy about this data. In fact, they’re more than uneasy; they’re downright paranoid (which is what we do naturally in Bawlmer, hon), and for good reason:

Baltimore football teams have been involved with the two games — one a win in the so-called Greatest Game Ever Played in 1958, and one a loss in Super Bowl III (III means 3 in Super Bowl vernacular) in 1969 — that shaped the future and the foundation of professional football as we still know it today.

As we touched upon in Tuesday’s entry in a semi-jokingly manner, the feeling in Baltimore (and everywhere else) is the NFL really wants Taylor Swift to be front and center in the upcoming Super Bowl for a number of reasons, the biggest one being Super Bowl TV ad revenue.

Thus, the most convenient way for Swift to attend the game is for her boyfriend’s team, the Kansas City Chiefs, to beat the Baltimore Ravens, who are the home team on Sunday.

Some folks believe the NFL should use a system to select officiating crews that allows each team involved to veto a certain crew, which isn’t a bad idea at this stage when you consider the obscene amount of money that is on the line; and we’re not even talking about what the players and the coaches who are actually playing the game are in line to potentially receive.

Frankly, I have better things to do with my time (I clipped my toenails on Wednesday) than to pore over numbers, stats and analytics concerning the potential outcome of a television show episode, regardless of how important the episode seemingly is or is not. Of course, that’s because I don’t gamble. I put my money to better use — I buy beer.

The point is, Las Vegas and gambling — legal or otherwise — were part of the fabric of professional football long before the so-called Greatest Game Ever Played (and it wasn’t, according to players from both teams who played in it) was even thought of. But once the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants in sudden-death overtime that day in Yankee Stadium on national television, something the masses had never seen live in the comfort of their homes, television and television dollars have been the ruler of professional football.

As for Super Bowl III, if the Colts, who were 15 ½-point favorites, beat the Jets to give the NFL its third straight win over the AFL in the created-for-television championship game, is there a league merger, and if there is no merger, are there television deals for the league that now easily stretch into the billions?

As a lifelong Baltimore fan, I root for the Ravens just as I root for the Orioles, and just as I lived and died with the Bullets and the Colts. Yet, after Super Bowl III, I am eager to believe everything, while at the same time hesitant to believe or trust anything at all.

How about the night the lights went out in the New Orleans Superdome, but nowhere else in the immediate neighborhood, as the Ravens were crushing the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, leading to a long delay that effectively killed Baltimore’s momentum and allowed the 49ers to regroup and get back into the game, which Baltimore would win in a nail-biter?

This is what we are continuously given, and these are just some of the things that have led to the growing belief in conspiracies, and in scripts, and in seemingly inane data. Not to mention a wide-spread cynicism of the big picture because of the means to the results that are eventually put into the books.

By the way, this year’s Super Bowl is being played in Las Vegas.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT