ATLANTA — Roger Goodell coming out of his bunker for his Super Bowl LIII press conference and admitting the infamous non-call should have been called Saint nearly enough for the city of New Orleans.
For 10 days, as images of Rams players at Super Bowl LIII flitted across their television screens, Goodell said nothing.
And what he said Wednesday was too little, too late for a team and a city robbed of the opportunity to capture its second championship and still raging over what could have and should have been.
And so the outrage and the frustration will not go away. There will be Super Bowl No Watch parties at bars and a parade through the French Quarter when the Rams try to beat the Patriots.
“People just wanted to hear that he admitted, ‘We blew the call.’ And he was just not gonna use those words, whether to protect the legitimacy of the Super Bowl contenders and everything,” a lifelong New Orleans man named Peter Finney Jr. was saying over the phone.
Finney was a Post colleague of mine from 1981-90. He returned home in 1993 to work at the Clarion Herald. His father, the late, great Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney Sr., worked there for 68 years.
“What I was hoping he would say was, ‘We blew it, we’re gonna move heaven and earth to make sure no other team ever has to deal with something like this again,’ ” Finney said. “And then, everything is on the table — instant replay, calls within the last two minutes, extra officials. Be specific, even though he doesn’t know what’s gonna happen.
“What he did for 10 days in saying nothing was really insulting to the fan base in New Orleans.”
Goodell should have said he was sorry. To New Orleans, to Saints fans, his performance was sorry.
“Don’t speak like the head of a corporate machine,” Finney said. “Speak the truth to people who just want to know what’s going on.
“It was like giving you the back of the hand.”
Goodell mentioned that Al Riveron, the league’s vice president of officiating, had spoken to Saints coach Sean Payton about the non-call on Nickell Robey-Coleman.
“That’s not Roger talking to the people,” Finney said. “He owed people that.”
Finney, who was at the NFC Championship, will not be watching the Super Bowl for the first time in a long while.
“He could have said this exact same thing on Monday [immediately after the championship game] not knowing the specifics of what they’re gonna do,” Finney said. “ ‘Hey, we’re gonna do a total investigation. We’re gonna do something. No team should have to face this again.’ ”
Goodell was programmed when he should have displayed passion.
“I just thought it was a weak response,” Finney said.
Saying referees are human was not what the Who Dat doctors ordered. Or deserved.
“We feel your pain, we understand how you’re feeling,” Finney paraphrased.
“No. Not really, no.”
Goodell promises to have the competition committee discuss any possible improvements. But who knows if there will be any? And if there are, it can’t help the Saints or the city of New Orleans.
“He just kind of danced around it as if it’s just another call,” Finney said. “And it was not just another call.”
New Orleans has had a love-hate relationship with Goodell.
“Most people in New Orleans don’t give Goodell credit for what he did after Katrina,” Finney said. “He and [previous commissioner] Paul Tagliabue, they did move heaven and earth to bring the Saints back from San Antonio, to get the Superdome fixed in nine months, a gargantuan task. … Had they not done that, who knows what would have happened to the Saints?”
But then came Bountygate, when Payton was suspended for a year and then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely.
“People didn’t deny that there were bounties that were put out by the Saints,” Finney said. “The feeling was that virtually every team in the NFL did something similar. They felt like to suspend a coach for a full year was an excessive fine. They’ve been mad at him since then.”
And now many of them won’t watch his Super Bowl.
“A lot of people on radio are saying, ‘I’m not watching the Super Bowl. It’s an illegitimate Super Bowl,’ ” Finney said.
Finney plans on marching in the French Quarter parade. His son Peter III is the pastor at St. Rita’s Church.
“They have houses in the area that are kind of run down, a bunch of parishioners said they’re going on weekends to go fix things up. They’re planning to do that on Super Bowl Sunday,” Finney said.
Finney used to be a sportswriter, and a damn good one. He tried ever so hard to be his objective self here.
“And what makes it tough is everybody knows [Drew] Brees [just turned] 40. He may not ever have another chance,” Finney said.
No guarantees for anyone else either. No Mardi Gras this week in New Orleans. No Super Sunday.
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