Don Bauder 9:40 p.m., May 21
NBC reported today that Chargers Coach-Provocateur Norv Turner was in no mood to complain about the officiating during last Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints. From the questionable call regarding Melvin Ingram's helmet-tap of Saints quarterback Drew Brees (a call that erased a Chargers touchdown) to the comeback-killing calls on Antonio Gates (offensive pass interference) and Nick Hardwick (holding) in the fourth quarter, His Serene Middlingness remained sanguine and even, dare we say it, pleased.
"It shows that we're where we ought to be," smiled Turner. "Bad calls are clearly this season's narrative, and now we have a place in that narrative. Normally, I don't like working with someone else's idea for a story, but to ignore the zeitgeist on this one would be the worst sort of prima donna tantruming, akin to sending my men out to play football while dressed as bullfighters. You have to work within the confines of what's given to you.
"The obvious, clumsy mistakes made by the replacement referees - mistakes which reached their apotheosis in the confusion of touchdown and interception at the Packers-Seahawks game, a confusion not unlike mistaking life for death or football for European football - reminded me of the primitive accounts that ancient cultures created to explain the world around them. Thunder and lightning as signs of an angry sky-god, that sort of thing.
"But as every schoolboy knows, the ancient Greeks took those myths and turned them to far more sophisticated ends. No longer did man imagine gods to explain their creation; rather, he created gods to explain himself. So yes, there were blatant bad calls in earlier games, made by blundering pseudo-referees. But that's not art, not unless you call a child's finger-painting art. And I am interested in art. Calls that are questionable, made by newly reinstated (and perhaps rusty) professional referees, calls that leave room for ambiguity, interpretation - those are what I'm interested in. And those are what I got on Sunday.
"Those are the calls that serve my ends, my ultimate goal to end my final season at precisely .500, thus stifling all the obvious, extreme emotions that a great success or great failure would engender. Because only in this state - frustrated but not enraged, unclouded by elation - can a fan become reflective, and consider whether or not it is really worthwhile to keep the Chargers in San Diego at any cost. The team began in Los Angeles; perhaps the time has come to let them return? Perhaps the time has come for an honest assessment of what you give to them, and what they give or do not give back to you in return."
"Ultimately," concluded Turner, "this season is not about football. It's about you, the fan. Football is just the myth I'm using to help you understand yourself. Please, think about it."