The Jacksonville Jaguars failed to upset the New England Patriots in the 2018 AFC Championship Game and, while that result wasn’t a shocker, the game produced quite a bit of controversy. Because the Patriots were whistled for only one penalty and were granted a huge advantage in penalty yards (including a few specific blunders), the conspiracy theories are flowing and that provides the backdrop for an interesting exercise.
Obviously, there will always be some fans ready to jump to the “rigged” distinction but, still, there are a few games that cross over to the more legitimate zone when whispers become screams. Today, we’ll outline five times in which even the most casual fan may have veered into the conspiracy land with regard to pro sports.
2002 Western Conference Finals
This is perhaps the most legendary “rigged” series and the Sacramento Kings came out on the ugly end. While there were some serious officiating blunders, Game 6 was particularly egregious and the game is even the subject of legitimate attention after the Tim Donaghy officiating scandal with regard to gambling. In the end, the Kings were left without a chance to claim a title and the Lakers rolled to a three-peat after vanquishing their biggest foe… with some help.
Super Bowl XL
The Super Bowl has been largely immune from full-blown officiating controversy… with the exception of this game. The Steelers triumphed over the Seahawks and, while they certainly may have won the game outright without any assistance, it was almost universally agreed that Seattle ended up on the short end of the stick. It isn’t every day when neutral party observers lean into the conspiracy with pro football but this one fit the bill.
The NFL even has a top 10 controversial calls video from the game. That should mean something.
2006 NBA Finals
Dwyane Wade ascended to the mainstream as he led the Heat to the title and he was masterful in the win over the Dallas Mavericks. Still, it is tough to ignore the way that “Flash” was able to do it, as the referees repeatedly sent him to the free throw line to the tune of a staggering 16 (!) attempts per game in the series. Part of that was certainly due to Wade’s reckless, careening style of play. But, in the same breath, the whistles were quick and they left an impression.
The 1985 NBA Draft Lottery
Patrick Ewing ending up in New York is legendary. The “frozen envelope” conspiracy theory will probably live forever and it is impossible to deny the impact that having a transcendent star in New York could have had on the NBA. It makes all the sense in the world that David Stern would have wanted Ewing in the Big Apple and, even if this actually didn’t happen, a faction of the NBA world will always believe it.
The first Pacquiao-Bradley fight
Boxing is always mired in controversy but, in the recent past, the first bout between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley is the most highly discussed in this regard. Virtually everyone agreed that Pacquiao dominated the fight for the vast majority of the evening but, in the end, Bradley prevailed in stunning fashion. To make things even more interesting, that result triggered a massive rematch clause and, well, that provides all the incentive needed to send the action into the cloak of darkness.