Chanting, Not Just Calling Bullshit

If you happened to be watching last night’s edition of Sunday Night Football you witnessed several things that bordered on incredible. So many story lines were playing out, they could fill a small library. Unlike Bob Costas I don’t feel that every single sporting event that takes place has some profound impact on the human race. Yet once in a while a game comes along that makes you think in all kinds of ways about stuff outside of the game. I will talk about just one of the many examples last night’s game provided to do so.

The Baltimore Ravens won the game against the New England Patriots in a nail biting manner that most football fans only dream about. And as exciting and satisfying as that was for me, (a Ravens fan), it was only part of the story of last night’s straight up insanity. Stay with me. You won’t have to know football to get something out of this.

Right now, the NFL officials, (The referees and line judges and such) are on strike. So for all of this year so far, games have been officiated by college level football officials. Not the ones that you see in charge of say Notre Dame vs. Navy. Those are Division I officials, and they are busy, well, officiating Division I games every Saturday. So the NFL is using officials who are used to calling Division II college football. (Don’t ask me who is  in charge of Division II football in their absence. I have no idea.)

I’m not an expert on these matters, but this is roughly analogous to having the  very best community college glee club in your state fill in for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The former may be highly talented dedicated individuals, and wonderful at what they do. But  throw them one day into the MTC, and they are, quite understandably, out of their league. And people would certainly notice. There are levels to this sort of thing, after all. Division II college football officials are that hard working glee club on its way to Salt Lake City.

Mistakes have abounded as these guys try to keep track of games. Just look up “replacement refs” and you are bound to get the picture. These guys, in short, are in over their heads.

Last night, the glee club was once again off key. Way off key. And like someone singing poorly in the perfect acoustics of the Mormon Tabernacle, the mistakes were magnified tenfold in front of an evening game televised coast to coast.

I won’t get into the specifics of the penalties, as this isn’t a football blog. But suffice to say that even the announcers of the game had concluded that not one, but two consecutive late game penalties against Baltimore were, in the words of Al Michaels, “pretty ridiculous”. The second of them is quite uncommon in the first place, and was misapplied to the situation. That is the one that raised the roof in Charm City.

In a move unrivaled by even the angriest NFL fans in the angriest, nastiest cities in the league, (New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh), the crowd of 71,000 at M&T Bank Stadium somehow managed, in perfect sync, to chant, “bullshit!” for close to a minute. Clear as a bell and loud as hell. Though I’m not sure how it happened, it got onto the television feed for the entire country to hear. Check it out.

Little did the crowd, or anyone at that moment know that the Ravens would pull it out in the end to win by one point on a field goal. That doesn’t negate the fact that the two calls I mentioned were in fact bullshit, and the fact that the crowd chanted “bullshit” in such a well orchestrated manner. That is actually what I’m addressing here today.

To start with, 71,000 people chanting anything in perfect unison is eye opening, let alone when they are chanting something like “bullshit”. Far more so than the same group of people just hollering their own individual messages at one time. I think we as people are wired to respond to the rhythmic chanting of anything.

However it happened, this perfectly timed chant wasn’t censored by the network. Everyone watching at home heard it with absolute clarity, and social media was instantly abuzz over it. Love or hate Baltimore, the country was all about the chant. The commentators even had to mention it, so intrusive into the broadcast was it.

It didn’t change anything on the field, of course. The calls were not reversed, and had the Ravens lost, these two blown calls would have had more than a little to do with it.

I imagine the crowd knew this. They knew that chanting “bullshit” was not going to make things any better. Yet they did it anyway. So egregious was the calling by these unqualified officials that they were determined to make some kind of scene about it. It may have been all the more successful because they knew it would accomplish nothing. (Other than to maybe, just maybe get mentioned on TV, since certainly everyone there knew it was a national televised game. Though I am thinking it worked far better than they could have imagined.) Perhaps it worked because they knew it would amount of little more than a demonstration. It has certainly gotten people talking around the league…

And who knows? Perhaps the dynamic in the stadium brought about by the chant fired up the Ravens in some undefinable way, and allowed them to make the final winning drive.

The point is sometimes people who have no business being in authority make decisions that affect us in unfair, absurd ways. It costs us big time once in a while. Sometimes we can do something about it. Often we cannot. And while many would say being quiet and returning to your desk or home or car may be best, I say sometimes one has to not just call bullshit on something, but chant it at the top of one’s lungs to whoever is out there. Even if they are not listening, chant it loud enough and someone will hear you. And being heard may just be the most important thing at such times.

Was it the most wholesome way to do it? No. Did it subject children to the word “bullshit”? Yes. They’ll live. That is life. Nobody stormed the field. Violence didn’t break out. The chanted phrase could certainly have been a lot more vulgar. But none of these things happened. In a decision that was a bit rebellious, a bit off color, fruitless on the day, and made out of anger, Baltimore fans decided, all at once, that they had had enough of the on going officiating saga and chanted in one voice, “bullshit”.

Adding even more salt to these meal? It isn’t the way Baltimore fans usually behave. That also says something about the spontaneous demonstration.

We can’t stay pissed forever, folks. I realize that. In football and in life we have to at some point conclude that the play is over and go on to the next one. Yet I think something can and does come about when we chant “bullshit” once in a while. Especially if others of similar mind join in with us. It may not change the circumstances but it may just call attention to the problem. It may just get others on our side. It may just get those in authority talking long enough to change something. If not for you, than for the next poor schlub that finds himself in your position.

It may not be your style to chant bullshit at life. So don’t do it all the time. But every once in a while get out of your seat, evaluate what has gone wrong, and start chanting “bullshit” and see what happens. Something may just change for the better, even if it is just how you feel on the day. You may not have 71,000 other people join in with you of course. But then again, you might.


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