By any stretch of the imagination, Martin Atkinson just bottled one of the biggest games of the year. Rather than let the players be the story, Atkinson and his extra large ego had to insert himself into the story yesterday at Stamford Bridge. And this, in the end, is what makes football so excruciating, painful and heartbreaking to watch. A single man, whose athletic dreams were never quite realized, who should be no closer to this game than sitting in a poor, dilapidated house watching it over a fuzzy, rabbit-eared, black and white television, is so vain that he has to place himself prominently into the storyline -- Look at me, Ma! Look what I've become! -- and, by changing the game's outcome singlehandedly, become the game's talking point all by himself. It's often said that the best official is the one you don't notice. The one who quietly operates behind the scenes, having a quiet word or two with the players in the heat of battle, stopping minor contretemps from flaring up into major brouhahas. The guy who unobtrusively goes about his business, letting the fans enjoy the players they paid to see. The one who takes command of a game, lays down the rules early and enforces them in a most consistent manner. Consistency -- that's the key. If you're going to call a game tightly or loosely, call it that way on both sides of the ball. But the ones who are weak, who are cowed by the crowd, who harbor a secret desire to be in the limelight themselves -- unbreathed to anyone, even their wife and closest associates -- are the ones to fear. These are the ones who consistently make mistakes, who get calls wrong more often than right, who can and do change a game just by being in charge. You know who you are: Martin Atkinson, Mike Dean, and Lee Mason. You guys are bottlers, second rate, can't handle the pressure, and all three of you consistently make calls that are easily second guessed by both fans and commentators alike, and not one of the three of you deserve to be anywhere near a pitch for a match more important than a four year old girls' game.
This is not a big secret. You don't often hear this charge of biased officiating against a Howard Webb (other than from Liverpool fans, who are in the clear minority on this one). Sure, Webb may have missed a call in the World Cup final, failing to red card Nigel De Jong for a chest-high cleating, but he doesn't miss many calls. He's consistent. He's not flashy, or witty, or anything else -- he's authoritative and consistent, calling the game the same way for both teams. But this is the second year running that Atkinson has messed up a big game at the Bridge. Last season he was unable to properly judge what constitutes a foul, and then compounded his mistake by allowing fellow pimp John Terry to push and pull his way to a goal. Atkinson's crimes and misdemeanors this year are so shockingly similar to his display last season that it's a wonder the FA can still allow his biased officiating in this match to continue. The only difference between this year and last is that this season the new "hero" at Stamford Bridge is not John Terry but David Luiz (aka Sideshow Bob), yet another thug who got away with his crimes right under Atkinson's beady little eyes.
David Luiz, Chelsea's Newest Cheating Thug
I won't go into a litany of Atkinson's misjudgments, mistakes, biases and errors -- in essence the singular role he played in the Chelsea victory yesterday -- as I'm certain that will be (over)covered in other media outlets. Suffice it to say that the fact that David Luiz was allowed to stay on the pitch only begins to tell the tale of the horrendous job Atkinson did yesterday, and is a total joke and disgrace to the football watching public. If the FA were serious, they would launch an immediate investigation into how Atkinson was awarded this game yet again, after last year's controversy -- instead, what we get are a steady drizzle of FA threats and muzzling of the criticism of its referees in any way, shape or form for anyone who fails to toe the party line. This, even when neutrals watching the world over have seen it plain as day and face an uncomfortable truth about football: ugly, inconsistent and biased officiating is ruining our game. For all those of you out there who said United get all the calls, that Rooney's non-punishment this past week was part of an FA plot to help United, and that there exists in football a double standard which favors Manchester United above all teams, I dedicate this column to you, and the dog who oversaw the game yesterday: Take this game and shove Martin Atkinson up your ass. And to you, Martin: I hope you have trouble looking in the mirror tomorrow and forever afterward. You're a total disgrace to both yourself and your profession. You have no honor, only professional embarrassment, and you're not fit to walk the pitch that Manchester United plays on.