Last night’s Monday Night Football game between the Steelers and the Bears was “good” only if you’re compelled by a matchup of two teams that look profoundly unhappy all the time. But the Bears, bless their idiot hearts, did everything they could to keep this game watchable right to the very end. And then, Tony Corrente happened.
The Steelers were up three facing third-and-8 from the Bears’ 47 when outside linebacker Cassius Marsh, fresh from the practice squad and seen here looking like a weary traveler who’s about to rest after a long journey across the Dragonlands, took advantage of excellent coverage on the backend and sacked Ben Roethlisberger to give Chicago the ball back and a chance to tie, or even take the lead.
But oh wait! None of that actually happened, because Marsh dared to talk shit to the Steelers sideline from a dangerous 20 yards away. Referee Tony Corrente spotted the infraction immediately. And by “immediately,” I mean well after the offenses and defenses had started to leave the field, and after Corrente pulled a 2020 Trae Young and did an ever-so-subtle jab step directly into Marsh’s path before throwing his flag as high and as conspicuously as he possibly could. Let’s put Corrente under review here for a moment.
After the game, Corrente vehemently denied that he tried to initiate contact with poor Marsh before doing his finest Joey Crawford impression. The NFL told refs prior to this season that they wanted a renewed focus on enforcing taunting penalties because, uh, like, gang warfare might break out on the field if one player dares to say "SUCK ON THAT!" to another player. You can taunt the fans. You can do group celebrations. But you don't dare speak crassly to the opposition in heated moments. Then you’re out of line, young man. Thus, Tony Corrente was acting professionally and simply following the letter of the law. And you, good American, know that if you don’t wanna be punished, you shouldn’t break the law. You should especially know this during Salute to Service month, when every coach on the sideline is decked out head-to-toe in camo and allowed to call plays from the inside of a fucking tank.
This is the NFL at its deftest. Did you see a ref get outta line? Well, he was just enforcing the rules. Don’t like the rule? Well, the Competition Committee promises they’ll consider taking a look at that in April 2022 before breaking early for lunch at The Capital Grille. It’s the football equivalent of your cable company passing you around from one freelance service rep to another without ever connecting you to someone who can actually DO anything. There is a ceiling you are never allowed to breach.
Now, let’s all agree that Matt Nagy and the Bears would’ve found a way to fuck up and lose that game no matter what, which they did. Chicago regained the lead on the following possession, only to piss that fresh lead away 80 seconds later. All of that was inevitable, sure. But again we’ve come upon yet another NFL game where the most important play is one that never happened. They have rules in place to make certain of it, and the perfect group of foot soldiers to enforce them. It’s all for the good of the game, regardless of what your eyes tell you.