Are NFL Games Fixed?
You’ve probably heard some chatter about the NFL being “fixed” the last few days, after the underdog Chiefs registered wins over the Bills and Ravens. The idea being that the Chiefs, with Pfizer rep Travis Kelce and his mega pop-star girlfriend Taylor Swift, are getting more air time the farther they advance into the playoffs and hence more visibility to push the agendas of their backers.
And when they say “fixed” they mostly mean scripted like professional wrestling — in other words, the players are allowed to make plays during the games, but the ultimate outcomes are never really in doubt.
It always struck me as curious, for instance, that right after 9/11, out of nowhere — and I mean absolutely nowhere — the “Patriots” suddenly became the greatest dynasty in NFL history, just as the government was passing the most intrusive and civil-liberties abusing law in US history, “The Patriot Act.”
After Hurricane Katrina and the debacle of a response by the Bush administration, suddenly the New Orleans Saints became an elite team and eventually won a Super Bowl.
And now we have the Swift-Kelce crossover mega-spectacle and the Chiefs coming together as underdogs to provide them maximum exposure on the sports world’s biggest stage.
Okay, it’s weird. It’s also weird that Pfizer reportedly paid Kelce, not exactly a national household name outside of football fans, $20 million and then he just happens to link up with the world’s biggest pop star to make that investment more than worth their while.
Now, the counterargument is even if the Swift-Kelce reality spectacle was an arranged-marriage of sorts, and the relevant parties are benefiting from the exposure, it’s a hell of a leap to say the multi-billion-dollar enterprise that is the NFL would risk its entire reputation and viability just to do a solid for one of its biggest sponsors. You’d have to go deeper and speculate on bigger forces at play, like blackmail of NFL owners/Roger Goddell via an Epstein-style operation (though surely someone has unsightly tape on Bob Kraft!)
Of course, I don’t know of any specific evidence for this kind of claim. And we would also need an explanation for how they keep the players either unaware of the cheating, or, for those who are aware, to keep from talking about it, even after they retire.
Still, the idea that the NFL *could* be fixed (at least some of the time, for games that matter most) doesn’t strike me as beyond the realm of plausibility. For example, this kind of cheating is not without precedent at the highest levels of sport — consider the Tim Donaghy scandal in the NBA two decades ago that quite likely pushed the Lakers to the finals over the Kings and the Spurs over the Suns. Those series were fixed, and it’s still unclear whether that was the full extent of the fixing and whether it wasn’t just a single rogue ref who was in on it.
Finally, if ever an NFL season were fixed, for me it would be the 2013-14 playoffs, especially in the NFC. For starters, the Cowboys beat the Lions 24-20 in the Wild Card round, and there was a very strange no-call (they picked up the flag!) on an obvious PI with the Lions up 20-17 and driving midway through the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys advanced, but lost to the Packers when Dez Bryant’s catch was overturned and ruled incomplete. Then the Packers lost to the Seahawks in one of the more bizarre collapses of all-time. And of course, the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots when Russell Wilson, instead of handing off to Marshawn Lynch from the one-yard line, inexplicably threw a game-sealing pick in the end zone.
Every game involving NFC teams from the Wild Card through the Super Bowl turned on arbitrary rulings and bizarre decisions.
Of course, it’s hard to top the 2006 Steelers-Seahawks Super Bowl which was one of the worst refereed games of all time, after which one of the refs admitted his calls likely altered the final result.
Bottom line, I watch and pick games as though the NFL is not fixed, even though I think there’s a good chance some games may have been fixed in the past, and that given the amount of fraud in society generally, the notion that more of it is fixed than we realize isn’t that crazy to me.
Moreover, I think powerful people and factions do often make malign plans out of public view, i.e., conspire, and it’s only natural and healthy even to theorize about such plans when weird things (like the Swift-Kelce spectacle) happen. That doesn’t mean any particular theory will turn out to be true, though, no matter how many have recently come to pass.