Sports Commentary 1/23/13: Counter Conspiracy
The Conspiracies of the Super Bowl…
Conspiracies theories in sports are nothing new. Every fan of every team can point to more than one legitimately bad call that went against their team at a big moment in a big game and build a “fix was in” conspiracy against the refs because every team in the history of every sport has had at least one bad call go against it at a critical moment. Conspiracy theories aren’t even new to the Super Bowl. Former Baltimore Colts defensive end Bubba Smith has contended for years, even wrote in a book, that the fix was in in Super Bowl III, the famous Jets victory predicted by brash young quarterback Joe Namath. Smith contended the NFL needed the Jets to win for the NFL-AFL merger to go through. So it should surprise no one, with the matchup set for Supe XLVII, that a new Super Bowl conspiracy has surfaced. Ten years ago the Oakland Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII and former Raiders reciever and return specialist Tim Brown says it was more a case of the Raiders, particularly coach Bill Callahan, handing the game to John Gruden and the Bucs. Callahan and Gruden were good friends and Gruden was in his first year as head coach of the Bucs after four tumultuous seasons under Al Davis as coach of the Raiders. Gruden, the story goes, coaxed Callahan into taking his spot at Oakland, a position Callahan soon developed a dislike for, primarily because of the ever present, always in charge Davis. Brown points to the final score, a 48-21 domination by the Buccaneers, and one of the more famous stories about the game, the disappearance of Raiders center Barrett Robbins, as the key pieces to his conspiracy theory, which goes like this. Callahan installed an offense for the game built around the run and the Raiders spent the week before the Super Bowl working on that offense. On friday Callahan turned the entire gameplan around, saying they would focus instead on the passing game. Some of the players argued against such a drastic change on such short notice, saying it would be difficult to restudy the play book so close to the game. Barrett, who had a bi-polar disorder and was certain he didn’t have time to make the adjustment, was particularly distressed and pleaded with Callahan not to make the change. Callahan stayed with the passing gameplan and Barrett was a no show for the game. Brown claims Callahan hated the Raiders and wanted to let his good friend Gruden win the Super Bowl. Yesterday hall of famer Jerry Rice, also a reciever on that Raiders team, backed up Brown’s claim that it seemed like Callahan wanted to throw the game. For every good conspiracy theory there’s a good counter argument and in Oakland at that time it wouldn’t have been difficult to picture Al Davis watching a run based offense in practice all week and going ballistic and demanding Callahan open it up. With no time to make drastic changes many of the play calls had to remain as they were all season and it’s likely that Gruden, having coached the Raiders just the season before, recognized many of the plays as they were being called, which would make it more a case of unfortunate timing and circumstances than, as Brown called it, sabotage. I’ve never been a big fan of conspiracy theories. Any coach, under any circumstances, intentionally blowing the biggest game on his resume, I’m not buying at all. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.