He was obviously joking. When retired star running back Arian Foster went on the Macrodosing podcast and said that NFL players received a script before the season, he was making fun of angry fans on social media. Angry fans on social media haven’t responded well, nor have some media outlets.

Foster’s comments come amid a period of profound, nonsensical unrest in the NFL community.

A significant sect of football fans has taken to social media in the past week to accuse the league of skewing the results of both the AFC and NFC Championship games to favor certain storylines. Referees in the Eagles/49ers game were accused of receiving instructions to call the game in favor of Philadelphia after Brock Purdy went down with an injury.

Later on in the evening, a different, equally nefarious group of refs were accused of calling in favor of the Kansas City Chiefs, costing Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals another trip to the Super Bowl.

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The media, particularly Cris Collinsworth, was also criticized for excessively favorable coverage of Patrick Mahomes, the overwhelming MVP favorite who has never failed to reach the AFC Championship in five seasons as a starter.

For these fans, the Eagles weren’t plainly superior to a 49ers team prepping Christian McCaffrey to play quarterback, nor is Mahomes plainly the most talented passer in football. The referees, controlled via earpiece or remote by dirty league officials, are the sole arbiters to determine wins and losses. So Foster made a joke about it, and now all hell’s breaking loose.

In truth, the only original reactions to Foster’s comments that have any sort of value belong to other players, who have taken to Twitter to share their worst football memories and jokingly blame the scriptwriters for setting them up to fail.

Micah Parsons applied the joke to the Cowboys’ most recent playoff loss, while Robert Griffin III expressed frustration about his injuries in 2012. Some shrewder football fans have followed their lead to similarly silly effects.

It’s all very good satire with a valuable underlying message: blaming the refs or some all-powerful monolith for a loss in a sporting event is really, really lame. There are some exceptions — the Rams’ win over the Saints in 2019 after a missed pass interference call led to a complete reevaluation of the penalty itself. In general, though, it’s lame. Whoever your quarterback is, Mahomes is better. Sometimes, he’ll beat you. No team in the league could have defeated the Eagles without their starting quarterback. It happens. Deal with it.

But those taking Foster’s joke seriously in any sense are somehow more annoying than the people he was making fun of in the first place. A surprisingly large number of people at the very beginning of the Bell curve missed the joke completely and took his words as a truthful admission of guilt. Others understood the humor but didn’t appreciate the implication (that they were being mocked). Then media outlets got involved.

Because they noticed a high volume of traffic surrounding Foster’s words on social media, countless publications have put out stories compiling tweets and reactions to the issue. Some have done this well; Fox News sports editor Ryan Gaydos was especially glib and conscious in his reporting.

The Huffington Post, however, called Foster’s joke a “conspiracy” in the headline. Though the article alluded to humorous elements of the running back’s comments, it never fully committed to the idea that he was making a harmless joke, instead focusing on the perceived divisive nature of his words.

The dialogue leading up to and following Foster’s comments, which struck at the heart of the silliness of the issue itself, has been either humorously aware or painfully, painfully unaware. The latter group has the power to be much louder and more irritating in an era fueled by outrage and speculation.

One day, conspiracy theorists will be right. The moon will melt like cheddar or aliens will emerge from the Nevada desert. But when it comes to the NFL, Sunday evenings may be the best time possible for people to believe what they see on T.V. Be more like Arian Foster.

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