Ridiculous and sublime: Aaron Williams and the fist-bump conspiracy


I find the comments even more bizarre than the story is.  Be warned, however: The stupid.  It burns.

Denver has a goal-line play. The player runs into a pile. The line judge, John Hussey, can’t see if the Denver running back breaks the plane before he’s down.  The umpire, Carl Paganelli, communicates with him beautifully, giving him an indication (a thumbs-up) that the runner has scored.  Hussey signals touchdown and runs in. He talks to Paganelli.  Their conversation probably went something like this:

HUSSEY: “Hey, thanks for that, man. Nice communication.”
PAGANELLI:  “No problem, dude.” [fist bump]

Pretty benign stuff.  But…

Oh my.  Bills fans, led by their team’s safety Aaron Williams, believe that the fist bump is a sign that the officials were rooting for the Broncos.

Really?  Seriously?

For starters, let’s start with what Aaron Williams knows about officiating.  It’s less than you do.  Yes, less than even you do.  Seriously, his complaining tweet said that his team can’t win when it’s “16 vs. 11.”

Of course, there are 7 officials in an NFL game, Aaron.  Seven.  You have not had five officials on a field since high school (depending on where you went to school, of course).  Are you unaware of your basic surroundings or just notoriously bad at math?  Did you take any basic addition courses at the University of Texas?

But beyond that, Aaron Williams and his supporters live in a world where officials are both incredibly biased AND amazingly stupid. For starters, they believe that they (and probably me, if they came to watch me work) give a crap who wins the game. These guys did not get to where they are by caring about the result of the game, and they will not risk a really good paycheck (and no small amount of pride) by starting now.  Yeah, I know. The word “Donaghy” comes up about every fifth words in comments by the mouth-breathing contingent of Bills fans. But I’ll need a lot more than a fist-bump and a crooked ref from a decade ago to believe there was a rooting interest here.

But just for kicks and giggles, let’s assume that an official DID decide to risk everything he had earned in his life by somehow cheering for a Bronco victory. Do you believe that official would actually put it all at risk by publicly showing he was happy when the Broncos scored?  Seriously?  That’s in a whole other galaxy of stupid thinking, but that’s where Williams lives, I guess.

To be fair, I am not sure the officials should have bumped fists.  I was taught long ago not to shake hands with my partners after a game until we are out of sight of the court. We don’t want it to look like we conspired, and in a close, emotional game, people whose brains are impacted from emotional involvement will see that handshake or fist-bump like a Rorschach test on which they project their own sad, angry view of the world. It’s not worth it, and I suspect Hussey and Paganelli will not fist bump again, even though it seems they really should be able to. But even if they should have saved it for the locker room, the response from Williams and his supporters is comically out of whack here, and it should be obvious to anyone with firing synapses.

A shout out to Mike Pereira (as usual) for his passionate rejoinder against the stupid, and Eric Allen for reminding us all in the ESPN clip above that the officials are humans who take pride in their performance as well.


About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

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