Another AFC Championship Game, another big-time assignment for referee Clete Blakeman … likely to the chagrin of New England Patriots fans.
Blakeman, who has quite a history with the Patriots, has been awarded Sunday’s game in Kansas City where the Patriots and Chiefs will battle for a chance to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII.
You might remember Blakeman as the alternate referee for the AFC Championship Game in 2015 that kicked off the entire Deflategate saga. Blakeman was cited in the Wells Report on multiple instances and was part of the “evidence” used against the Patriots. The veteran ref also was the head man in the Patriots’ controversial last-second loss to the Carolina Panthers in 2013. He also was in charge for the 2015 game against the New York Jets (which the Patriots also lost), a game that featured some coin toss controversy prior to overtime.
Despite years and years of success, the Patriots are just 3-5 with Blakeman refereeing their games. That’s pretty eye-opening, and plenty of Patriots fans haven’t forgotten about the past with Blakeman.
The fix is in! Well, at least if you ask those people, two of which have Patriots-related Twitter avatars.
But here’s the thing: Despite his past transgressions, it’s unlikely Blakeman would get the assignment without impressing his managers (conspiracy theories notwithstanding). Oh, and also, Blakeman was the referee last year for the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. You may recall the Patriots benefitting a bit from Blakeman’s crew, too.
In fact, the Jaguars were incensed by the officiating after Jacksonville was flagged 10 times for 98 yards to just one 10-yard penalty for the Patriots.
“The stats speak for themselves,” Jacksonville’s Malik Jackson quipped after the game, a 24-20 Patriots win.
So, yeah, probably not the end of the world, but such is life when we’re waiting around for the biggest football weekend of the season to date.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images