Dave Reardon: Fixed? Not in NFL, though conspiracy theorists disagree

Feb. 19—Sports columnists are often accused of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. So, with that in mind : OK, I'll play along, the NFL is scripted. Let's run with it.

Sports columnists are often accused of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

So, with that in mind : OK, I'll play along, the NFL is scripted. Let's run with it.

The only problem is we'd be like Jim Marshall ... running the wrong way.

In a 1964 Minnesota game at San Francisco, Vikings defensive end Marshall recovered a fumble and ran 66 yards, untouched.

Great, right ? Well, not so great, because he finished his run in the wrong end zone. Marshall thought he'd scored a touchdown and threw the ball out of bounds in celebration. But that made it a safety, and two points for the 49ers.

Fortunately for Marshall, the Vikings won anyway, 27-22. But the jokes at his expense started right away.

On the postgame flight : Marshall said his teammates "kept telling me to get up in the cockpit and fly the plane. That way we'd end up in Hawaii instead of Minnesota."

Marshall's wrong-way run is one of many crazy plays in the history of the league that serve as evidence against it being scripted like a movie or TV show.

Conspiracy theorists contend it IS scripted and /or rigged based on the same kind of evidence—that bizarre plays prove their point, because they are so attention-grabbing, and can produce the kind of ridiculous but intriguing plot twists you see in pro wrestling.

If wrestling can be scripted, why not the NFL ?

That's easy. There are way too many moving parts in football for everyone—or at least enough of the key people—to be "in on it, " and ensure the scripted outcomes.

Pro wrestlers know from the beginning that what they're getting into is a painful soap opera, and most fans who are past Santa Claus-belief age understand the deal.

But if the NFL were scripted and rigged, at what point are the players (and coaches and officials ) given their parts to play and informed of their duty to remain silent ?

We're being asked to believe that thousands of very proud alpha males have agreed for who-knows-how-long to happily play their part in a farcical show, pretending that it's a real competition—and often live with embarrassing legacies.

Marshall was one of the most dependable players in NFL history, still holding numerous records for durability and longevity. He was a member of one of the greatest defensive frontlines ever : "The Purple People Eaters."

But instead of all that and two Pro Bowls he is remembered for running the wrong way. If it were part of a script don't you think he'd have let it slip by now ?

OK, you want a more recent example ... maybe the NFL wasn't scripted yet in'64, a year after the king of conspiracy theory culture, the JFK assassination.

This idea of the NFL being somehow rigged is nothing new, but it gained steam this month after the conference championships, when retired running back Arian Foster joked that he received scripts before every season.

Although most people (especially other players, on Twitter ) seemed to get that it was a joke, a lot of folks took it seriously. It went viral and a fake script circulated a few days before the Super Bowl.

How do we know it was fake ?

At least two credible fact-checking sites, Snopes and PolitiFact make solid cases for it being bogus.

Maybe, though, there is something to this ... who is checking the fact-checkers ? I'm trying to hang in there with you, flat-earthers, since the script's final score missed the real one by just a couple of points.

But the wrong team won. The script said Eagles 38, Chiefs 34.

Apparently Patrick Mahomes went rogue by ignoring the pain of his "high-ankle sprain " and decided to lead the Chiefs to a comeback win that featured scores on every second-half possession.

He couldn't resist going for that second MVP. Plus, ad-libbing (or at least, what looks like it ) is kind of the Chiefs' thing, right ?

And the refs got confused about which team they were supposed to call a questionable penalty against at a critical point late in the game.

I don't like refs making borderline calls with huge ramifications late in big games. That's about as logical as a cop taking the time to write out a speeding ticket for someone driving 10 mph over the limit on the freeway—when that someone is heading to a hospital to deliver a baby.

But bad officiating is usually just bad officiating. It's a very long reach from there to the idea of the league being scripted—and a nonsensical one.