BAYHAM: When The NFL Goes WWE

Last Friday, public ticket sales started for Wrestlemania XXX, the professional wrestling spectacular that will be held next April in the Superdome.

To promote the Crescent City’s first ever hosting of the biggest annual event in sports entertainment, a euphemism meant to couch the industry’s predetermined results with the genuine athleticism displayed by its performers, the WWE sent to Champions Square several of its retired wrestlers such as Mick Foley to boost ticket sales.

It seems that the spirit of Wrestlemania was still on the grounds on Sunday afternoon when San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks showed off his own pro wrestling moves, delivering a vicious/illegal clothesline on quarterback Drew Brees in the fourth quarter, which forced a fumble that was recovered by the Niners.

The officiating crew ruled the hit that caused Brees’s neck to go all “Go-Go-Gadget”, as the quarterback put it, a personal foul and put the football back in the hands of the Saints offense. Five plays later kicker Garrett Hartley would boot a game-tying field goal with 2:11 left on the clock.

Enter the defense led by a man who looks like he should be in pro-wrestling.

Rob Ryan’s defense forced San Francisco into a three-and-out, thanks in large part to a big sack on Colin Kaepernick by linebacker Junior Galette and the Saints did to San Francisco what the Joe Montana-led Niners used to do all too often to the home team by rallying back at the last moment for the win.

After the loss, the Niners threw post-game tantrums that would have made Jim Mora proud, claiming that the flag changed the game, which it did though it hardly decided the game.

San Francisco defense could have denied the Saints the field goal they scored on that drive. Or the San Francisco offense could have actually done something with the football with two minutes plus left on the clock in the fourth quarter.

The Niner Whining has since taken a turn for the absurd.

Brooks speculated that the referees were biased towards the Saints (I guess he didn’t watch the Black and Gold’s games against the New York Jets and New England Patriots where poor officiating had a much greater impact on the outcomes of those games).

“It was Drew Brees,” lamented Brooks. “And maybe the officials were for the New Orleans Saints a little bit more than the 49ers.”

In an action that affirmed the penalty call that left Brees with a bloody mouth, the league handed down a $15,750 fine on Brooks for the hit.

Brooks, who called the penalty b.s., has received some vocal support from outside his organization, though the character references of his most outspoken cheerleader are suspect.

Retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis declared the flag “the most embarrassing call in the National Football League since the Tuck Rule and Tom Brady” and while waving his American Express card out on camera offered to pay half of Brooks’s fine.

Lewis was at one time charged with two counts of murder stemming from the fatal stabbings of two men outside of an Atlanta nightclub and is now an analyst for ESPN, an inconvenient tag that should haunt him in all mentions of his name in the media and should embarrass any entity that would fire him in a public capacity.

If the 49ers had any class, they don’t, they’d keep their mouths shut and remain grateful for a flag that wasn’t thrown after a much more blatant cheapshot committed by safety Donte Whitner’s “flying headbutt” in the 2012 divisional playoff game.

Just as Saints running back Pierre Thomas had caught a pass from Brees in the San Francisco red zone, Whitner went helmet-to-helmet on Thomas, knocking out New Orleans’ lead running back with a concussion and causing a fumble.

I don’t recall 49er coach Jim Harbaugh walking over to the officials requesting his team be penalized for an obviously dirty hit in a contest that matter a lot more than last Sunday’s contest.

Whitner hasn’t changed much from that game, as he filed paperwork a month ago to legally change his surname to “Hitner” in protest for being penalized for illegal hits he has leveled on opposing players.

While the Black and Gold members of the NFL player fraternity won’t speak ill about their brothers in Red and Gold, I will say it: the 49ers play dirty and whine loudly when they get caught.
And their fans are the worst in football.

And I’ve been to Oakland (though not Philadelphia).

Anyone who believes that Ahmad Brooks shouldn’t have been flagged and/or fined doesn’t belong in the NFL but in the WWE, which employs plenty of people as wrestlers and ringside managers whose regular shtick is arguing with referees that they didn’t cheat while kicking a dented steel chair under the ring.

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