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The ESPN-NFL War is ON: A Team Source Says the Bills and Bengals Forced a Suspension of Their Game and Trashes the 'Chaos' Among League Officials. I'm Here for All of It.

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By no means is this the most important element of the Bills-Bengals game. The continued recovery of a 24-year-old who came perilously close to dying is the Alpha and Omega of this story.

However …

When two "broadcast partners" which are really evil, giant, mega-corporations with a long and documented history of lying to the public start throwing rocks and garbage at each other over how the decision to suspend the game was handled, it might not be matter in the grand scheme of things. But if you harbor serious grudges against both corrupt oligarchies, it's pure entertainment to watch them go at it. 

ESPN beefing with the NFL is like the Eastern Front in World War II. The Iran-Iraq War. The 2000 World Series between the Yankees and Mets. My in-laws arguing at Thanksgiving. One of those situations where you get to sit back, enjoy yourself, and just root for massive casualties on both sides. 

This one obviously stems from the fact we heard Joe Buck say repeatedly in the moment that the Bills and Bengals were told they had five minutes to get warmed up for a resumption of the game, while the cameras showed Joe Burrow doing precisely that:

Which was simultaneously being reported on two radio networks carrying the game:

Which Troy Vincent vehemently denied:

Without ever explaining why no one in his organization reached out to ESPN, Desportes, or Westwood One to correct the record. Here's what I said about Vincent's denial:

The only logical conclusion a rational mind can draw is that the league is lying about this. And if you've been paying even the most casual amount of attention to them all these years, it shouldn't be a stretch. While the rest of us were agonizing over the fate of a player we've never met, the people in suits who get paid millions to make tough decisions were coming up with ways to spin a story in such a way as to minimize how much criticism they might get. Again.

ESPN seems to agree. They sent out the reporter they typically let off the leash when they want to smear the Patriots, Don Van Natta Jr., to dig around. And apparently he had no problem finding someone from one of the teams involved to drag Vincent, Roger Goodell and the league for the weaselly way they handled it. With one exception:

Source - [Bills and Bengals] staffers stood anxiously in a semicircle with NFL chief football administrator Dawn Aponte. Passing Aponte's cellphone back and forth, they spoke with NFL executives at the league's command center in Manhattan. …

League officials still had not decided the game's fate. But for both teams' coaches and players, there was never a doubt: They would not play another down that Monday night.

"The Lord himself could come down, and we were not going to play again," a high-ranking official from one of the teams told ESPN on the condition of his and the team's anonymity. "She [Aponte] was getting pressure. She was not getting consistent and direct messaging that she deserved to receive."

Aponte appeared caught between two teams that didn't want to play and league officials inside the command center, led by NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, who left open that possibility for nearly an hour, the official said. "Whatever crazy nonsense she was getting," the official added, "man, she held it. She held it strong." …

[T]he accounts of coaches, players, union officials and team executives tell another story: Postponing the game was a ground-up decision.

"The league did not cancel the game," the team official said. "The Bills and the Bengals canceled the game." …

That final decision might have belonged to Goodell, but the first instinct not to play came on the field in Cincinnati.

"The ambulance left the field … and it was crystal clear from everyone's perspective that we could not play," the top team official said. Aponte was speaking nonstop to NFL executives in New York and coaches and officials at the game. "The only chaos was coming … from the command center."

The NFL's senior-most executive inside the command center was Vincent.

I love it. Forgive me, Lord, but I love it so. Not the near-tragedy that was playing out, obviously. Certainly not the angst the players and coaches were going through. And not this Dawn Aponte, who was clearly caught in the middle and stuck in the position of being boots-on-the-ground while the big boys were upstairs soiling the pants of their designer suits. 

No, what I love is the fact the sheer incompetence of the guys making the big bucks to make decisions is being exposed to the world. By no less a source than the NFL's go-to news outlet they turn to whenever they want to release misinformation that makes the league look good. They're not just lying to the public, they're lying to the very state-run media they use to spread lies. And lying about them as well. These two sinister crime syndicates are at war. Pushing buttons on one another. And it's glorious to sit back and watch them settle all family business. 

Which puts me in the unique position of having to take ESPN's side. The World Wide Leader may have done a million fake news reports surrounding Spygate, Deflategate and a dozen or so other Patriots-themed hatchet pieces (that almost always used a disgruntled, disgraced Jack Easterby as "sources with knowledge of") but they're on the side of the angels on this one. The NFL expects us to believe that Joe Buck and radio people all just simultaneously made up this stuff about the five minutes. And that notorious fabulist Troy Vincent is telling the truth this time. That he's not simply lying (again) because telling the truth, that he wanted the game started right back up again, but faced a revolt from the Bills and Bengals, would make him and the league look bad. 

This is one of those "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" situations. Let's hope it never comes up again. After everything the WWL has done to New England, taking their side in this conflict makes me feel dirty.