Calciopoli Southern Style?
On our Saturday morning post, Breakfast Before Memphis, I referred to the $30,000 fine handed to Urban Meyer as reported in Dr. Saturday’s article, A brief history of the SEC’s descent into ref-related absurdity. The good doctor recounted the litany of questionable calls that have been widely publicized, spawning a conversation that has resulted in opinions ranging from “bad officiating is an unfortunate part of the game” to “the fix is in.”
Some who gravitate toward the latter end of the opinion spectrum don’t do so because they think that gambling forces are hidden in the weeds. Their premise is more sinister: the conference would like to guarantee that Alabama or Florida will play in this year’s BCS championship game in Pasadena.
Now who in their right mind would ever think that SEC officials would make calls in a way to ensure a favorable outcome of selected games?
For one, a fan of european club football (soccer) would be highly suspicious of any perceived pattern of calls with a plausible motive behind it. In Italy, a scandal (known as the Calciopoli) was broken by legal authorities in May 2006 (mainly by wiretapping) that exposed a highly intricate network of relations between club officials and referee organizations. The short story is that owners/mangers of some of the biggest clubs in the world, including Juventus of Turin, were shown to have rigged matches by having favorable referees selected by the league for their matches. Imagine the incestuous network that was created for something like that to happen. For a short version of this scandal, read this at Wikipedia. For a lengthy presentation, read John Foot’s scholarly Winning at All Costs: The Untold Story of Triumph, Tragedy, and Corruption In Italian Soccer. I’ve read it. It’s utterly frightening, mainly because of the subtlety of the whole thing.
Before the hate mail and death threats start to roll in, let me say this: I have no opinion on the situation in the SEC because I have not performed any personal assessment of the calls in question. Nor am I equating Italian society and culture to that in America. Nor am I trying to insinuate that Dr. Saturday was trying to say something that he was not (he wrote that “none of the bad calls in the SEC this year directly affected the outcome of a game. None of them resulted in an injury. These were ordinary mistakes, the kind officials have been making (and will continue to make) for decades, and that fans gripe about for a couple days and move on.”).
Just have a look at Dr. Saturday’s article (he provides some video clips as well). Add to that a discussion of Saturday’s call in the Alabama-LSU game provided by the LSU blog And the Valley Shook. And, read David Climer’s article that evokes the Grassy Knoll imagery to paint the paranoia side of this issue. Then answer the following questions.
- Is there a pattern of bad calls involving certain teams at critical game-changing moments?
- If you think there is a pattern, how likely do you think that the pattern is man-made?
- What would it take to convince you that Calciopoli Southern Style was cooking on the stove?
- Do you think such a devious scenario is even plausible (anything is possible which is why I chose a different word)?