The Raider Nation has long believed that the infamous tuck rule call was a fix. Now, nearly 9 years later, some support for that theory that many NFL fans try to marginalize as worthy of a 'tin hit' has emerged from an unlikely source: ESPN's Skip Bayless.
Our colleagues over at Xtra Point Football recently posted as story on the Snow Job based on a segment that aired on ESPN's First Take 8 December 2009.
In this episode, Skip Bayless was talking to former Raider fullback Jon Ritchie. With the fallout over the allegations by and surrounding NBA referee Tim Donaghy and the fixing of NBA games, they were discussing the potential for fixing an NFL game. Ever the Silver and Black bleeding Raider, Ritche said, "I, uh, absolutely felt as though, uh, we were eliminated from the playoffs not because of our own doing but because a call went the other way."
When asked by the moderator to elaborate, Ritchie said, "But there was a bias against the Raiders and there were some who felt like hey this was 2001. We just had this national catastrophe in 9/11 and it's a great thing to have a red, white, and blue team - you know there - it got that extreme."
Rather than backing off of his comments, he came out and said, "I believe they knew that we should have won that game. I believe that someone else dictated that that call go the other way."
ESPN analyst Skip Bayless supported Ritchie's assertion, "Okay lemme back him up. I was at that game in the press box I was working in the Bay Area at the time. And you can dismiss this as classic Raider Al Davis paranoia but Al later told me that he had it on good authority that the league commissioner, then commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, actually participated via phone from New York during the replay review which did go on suspiciously long. I don't remember what the exact -- it was like four or five minutes. It was excessively long to the point I was dumbfounded by call. I think you [Ritchie and the Raiders] got absolutely robbed. And league officials spent the next week lecturing reporters about how the rule book said something that I don't think it said at all. They tried to rewrite the tuck rule by saying that once you tuck (brings arm forward in a throwing motion to tucking the ball), I'm sorry, once you pump and bring the ball back to the set position you can't fumble. That's not what I think that the rule book says."
Once Bayless agreed with Ritchie, they moved on without further discussion. These are hefty accusations. They may not be foreign to the Raider Nation, but if they are true then they would undermine the credibility of the entire league. Of course, that is something that the NFL would have to continue to cover up any wrongdoing in that moment or it would be the largest sports scandal since the Eight Man Out World Series in 1919, if not bigger.
Walt Coleman knows the truth of what happened that snowy night under the hood, as does former league commissioner Paul Tagleabue. Come clean, it will be good for the soul.