Monday night’s Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots game was a primetime display of shoddy officiating. The most egregious instance involved an inadvertent whistle on a Danny Amendola catch that would have been a huge gain, if not a touchdown, but Gene Steratore’s crew bungled other plays throughout the night. Maybe it was that it was a night game, or maybe it was that the calls in question were significant, but the errors seemed out of control.

At one point, the Bills had the ball on fourth down with less than a minute remaining when Tyrod Taylor threw a pass to Sammy Watkins. The official ruled the pass incomplete, which would have sealed a 20-13 Patriots win. Looking at the replay, however, Watkins was clearly in bounds. The play went under further review.

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Roughly a minute after the decision was reversed, keeping Buffalo’s hopes alive, ESPN’s SportsCenter account tweeted this:

One interpretation of this dull, uninspired tweet would be that it was an expression of incredulity that the game couldn’t go through two damn plays without requiring the replay booth.

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Another, dumber interpretation would be that it was an expression of ESPN’s biased, anti-Patriots agenda. In this reading, the tweet is about how the Patriots cheat, as evidenced by the (deflated) footballs and cameras (illegally taping walkthrough practices). Take note of the fact that earlier, with 1:34 left on the clock, Taylor had pointed to his headset as he looked towards the sideline, recalling past eyebrow-raising headset activities in Foxboro. Also note that NFL reporter Chris Mortensen, who’s employed by the Worldwide Leader, supremely fucked up his Ballghazi reporting by taking anything the NFL would give him. Why would you take note of these things? So you can follow the high trutherism with which the bad tweet was met by aggrieved Patriots fans. An example of this bad reaction:

The SportsCenter account, presumably overwhelmed by its scorching mentions, clarified the joke 16 hours later:

The clarification was stupid and unnecessary, especially the last sentence. (“We’ll be better.” This isn’t Dan Rather apologizing for the Killian documents.) Regardless, it was, to many, another page in the pile of evidence proving that ESPN is out to get the Patriots with their Bias Journalisms, just like Roger Goodell and the NFL tried to make an example of them because they win so much and their starting quarterback gets to hump Gisele and ur all jealous haters.

I’m a Patriots fan, and I can admit that the Patriots do shady shit. Yes, Mortensen was sloppy in his Ballghazi reporting. At the same time, John Jastremski and Jim McNally were not texting each other about weight loss. Yes, Goodell is indeed an inept knob who could complicate a peanut butter sandwich—not even jelly, just peanut butter, on one side—but at the same time, Bill Belichick’s science report was just an excuse for him to say “balls” multiple times.

Before deflated footballs were a hotly debated topic, New England fans were already insufferable. When it came to choosing sides between Goodell and the Patriots, the best outcome was mutually assured destruction, but somehow, everyone with a Tom Brady jersey avatar believed that they were the wronged underdogs. That thought process ignores the fact that everyone else despised the Patriots long before the circus started in January. It also retroactively tries to frame the Patriots as being screwed over in the Spygate investigation, despite Bill Belichick admitting they broke the rules and the NFL literally stomping the tapes to keep them from catching more hell.

The Patriots exploit a loophole, and move on to the next one after their competition complains. Sometimes, they break rules and try to defend themselves within the gray area. They’re not martyrs. The Patriots are a shifty, extremely unlikeable organization, and that comes with the territory when you support them. Maybe one day they’ll cross a moral line and kill an opponent’s assistant on the sideline for some sort of advantage no one else comprehends—classic Belichick, always one step ahead—but until then, I’m at peace with rooting for an immobile quarterback who snaps at his teammates if they’re facing a deficit and a football genius in the body of a gremlin enveloped in the paranoia of Richard Nixon’s ghost. The Patriots are sketchy as fuck and definitely did some bad shit, and while ESPN’s dumb Twitter account wasn’t actually alluding to that, if they had been, it would have been okay. On to Denver.

Photo: AP


Contact the author at samer@deadspin.com.

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