You know exactly how it went down – that most famous (or infamous) of all penalties that wasn't called. But let's recap just for fun . . .
The Infamous No-Call
It happened (or, rather didn't
happen) on Sunday, January 20, 2019, in a game that could have –
should have – sent the New Orleans Saints to the Super Bowl. And
here's how John Breech, writing for CBS
Sports, so aptly described it . . .
"It's not often that you
can get 73,000 people to all agree on something, but everybody inside
the Mercedes-Benz Superdome [in New Orleans] definitely agreed on one
thing after the Rams' stunning 26-23 win over New Orleans . . . The
Saints got hosed by one of the worst no-calls in NFL history.
"With 1:49 left to play
in a 20-20 game and the Saints facing a third-and-10 from the Rams'
13-yard line, Drew Brees dropped back and threw a pass to Tommy Lee
Lewis, and that's when this happened . . . Nickell Robey-Coleman
obliterated Lewis well before the arrival of the ball on a play that
screamed pass interference. As a matter of fact, there wasn't anyone
who didn't think it was pass interference.
"The 73,028 fans in
attendance all thought it was pass interference. Saints coach Sean
Payton thought it was pass interference. Drew Brees thought it was
pass interference. Heck, even Robey-Coleman thought it was pass
interference and the flag would have gone against him.
"Unfortunately for the
Saints, the only people alive who didn't think the play warranted a
pass interference penalty were the seven people who mattered: The
seven officials in the field."
So the Saints kicked a 31-yard
field goal to take a 23-20 lead. But then the Rams made a 45-yard
drive and then kicked their own 48-yard field goal to tie the game
and send it into overtime. The Rams then intercepted a Drew Brees
pass to set up a 57-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good, so
they won the game with 11:43 left in overtime.
Sadly for Saints fans, when
the egregious pass interference (including helmet-to-helmet contact)
happened, the sideline official did in fact reach for his flag –
but he never pulled it out and threw it. But that won't be the end of
that. You can bet yellow flags will be flying at Mardi Gras.
How New Orleanians Deal
Of course, it had to happen in
our litigious society: lawsuits
brought over the call that wasn't made. "Frank D'Amico, a
New-Orleans-based attorney, is suing the NFL on behalf of Saints
season ticket holders to change the outcome of the NFC championship
game between New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams. His suit, filed in
civil district court . . . claims a missed pass-interference call
against the Rams caused season ticket holders 'mental anguish and
emotional trauma' and 'loss of enjoyment of life,' among other
This, however, is not the way
typically deal with tragedy.
No, doubt about it, New
Orleans is unique and so are the people. It's a curious
Catholic culture, a Creole culture with African and Caribbean and
French elements, home of jazz, and the proud survivor of horrendous
natural disasters, as well as a place of paradoxes.
Consider the second line parade, a festive celebration for both funerals and marriage. It's a uniquely New Orleans way to mark
both death and new
life. And then there's Mardi Gras, the
last big blowout before the austerity of lent, unfettered feasting
and celebration right before fasting and abstinence. It's the New
Orleans way to take an ironic jab at what life throws in the way and
then laugh at it.
So do you think Saints fans in
New Orleans are going to sigh and let bygones be bygones? Nope, not a
chance – not with Mardi Gras coming up.
The Ironic Mardi Gras
Yellow Penalty Flag Throw
So now we come to Sean
Gautreaux and the latest trend in Mardi Gras throws (you know, the
beads, medallions, and so on thrown out to the crowds from the
floats) . . .
Just a few days after that January 20 NFC Championship Game, when the yellow flag did not fly, Sean was talking to Mardi Gras float painter Danny Corio. They were discussing the final touches for a parade they were working on. Danny had been listening to discussions of the game on sports talk radio while painting. It sparked an idea that he mentioned to Sean, but didn't have time to follow up on right then.
Shortly after that, though,
the Captain of the parade (the head or person in charge) was in the
warehouse where the Mardi Gras floats are stored (called the "den").
He was talking and complaining about the rising cost of Mardi Gras
throws – that is, the items tossed out from floats to the eager
hands of spectators, usually things like plastic beads, cups,
doubloons, and stuffed animals. Then the idea hit.
It would be the perfect way to
laugh in the face of that football tragedy, to give it an ironic
twist and wring out a little humor. And that would be a Mardi Gras
throw that was the penalty flag never thrown in the game. So Sean
went to work.
He set out to create overnight
some simple referee flags that could be used as throws. They had to
be cheap and quick to make, owing to the huge quantity that would be
distributed during the Mardi Gras parades. Typically, these throws
cost no more than $2.00 to $2.50, maximum, because float riders are
throwing them out to random strangers, and many of them wind up in
the landfill. So Sean did some investigating and found referee flags
on Amazon for about $2.00 each. The price was right, but the flags
were the wrong color and didn't have enough weight to lend themselves
to throwing. (Maybe the referees thought the same thing!)
He decided, then, to hit local
fabric stores for the necessary yellow fabric to cut up into
appropriately sized squares. Then he could place small rubber balls
(another common Mardi Gras throw) inside the squares to provide the
needed weight and then tie off the squares with rubber bands and
tape. Using this plan, Sean constructed 12 prototypes.
The next day, Sean posted
pictures of these 12 prototype flags on social media – and it blew
up and went viral. So he headed back to the fabric store for more
flag-making materials. But when he got to the store the next morning,
there was an empty spot on the shelf where he expected to see the
bolt of cloth. Another customer had purchased every bit of it except
for a meager two and half yards.
And here, in Sean's words, is
what happened next: "The
store then searched its other nearby store for fabric and said there
were 57 yards
there. I raced over only to find someone in line buying many yards
of the same color. Others had the same idea, obviously. Fortunately,
had found only the more expensive material and bought all 15 yards
of it. I found the less expensive 57 yards
of material and bought all of that, making about 600 flags. I quickly
realized after getting home that 600 flags would fulfill maybe 2 or 3
or the growing requests I had in my email box."
he had to find another solution, another source for fabric to meet
the burgeoning interest in Mardi Gras penalty flag throws.
The Man Behind It (Mostly)
But wait: who is Sean Gautreaux? Well, he is the man (mostly) behind this new Mardi Gras phenomenon, but quite a bit more really . . .
Sean wears many professional
hats, but is primarily an illustrator. After graduating from Pratt
Institute in Brooklyn with a Master's in computer graphics, he worked
in Fairlawn, NJ, as an art director for video games. That's a long
way from New Orleans, but in 2004 he moved back to New Orleans and
began working in the Mardi Gras industry painting floats. It was a
natural progression from here for him to move into designing Mardi
Gras throws and krewe favors (gifts).
In 2010, Sean left the Mardi
Gras industry for a few years. He wanted to try his hand at designing
children's books and now has a total of 20 to his credit. He is also
well known for his YouTube video series titled "What is in Our
Skies," an intriguing investigation into cloud "UFOs."
Currently, he has 7,000+ subscribers on his IndustrialSurrealism
But now Sean is back in the
Mardi Gras industry where he works as an independent contractor. Over
the last few years, he has worked for a bunch of different krewes on
various projects. His work – floats, doubloons, and more – can be
seen in the Krewe of Centurions, Knights of Babylon, Krewe of Alla,
Krewe D'Etat, and many others. He also does work for krewes that are
rather secretive and so is prohibited from publicly detailing his
work for them. But Sean was quick to add, "I can honestly say
it's the most fun work I do."
In 2019, Sean has been working
chiefly on the Krewe of Pygmalion float design, as well as doubloon
design, King/Queen/Maid costume design, and newspaper bulletins. And
right after the infamous football game, he had his own special
project. He designed an ironic float to poke fun at what happened at
the game and what happens in the NFL. (Take at a look at the image.)
In a recent interview, Sean
was asked what he wanted Saints fans to get out of this float design.
His ready response was: "A laugh. The NFL is a rigged joke. Just
get used to it." Leave it to Sean and the people of New Orleans
to find a way to laugh at disaster and then turn it into a
When Yellow Flags Do Fly
So how, exactly, is it going to play out at Mardi Gras?
The parades are at the center of it – these public displays put on for free during Mardi Gras. "There are," Sean explained, "about
60 parades in the metro area each year. Behind each parade is a
non-profit organization or club. Inside that organization is a krewe
(crew) that sponsors the parade. On the final weekend of Mardi Gras,
it is said that there are 1 million people viewing on the parade
route, especially when it comes to massive krewes like Endymion
(3000+ riders) or on Mardi Gras day when the floats are rolling all
day long. The city's population essentially doubles with all the
tourists coming in."
referee flags will be thrown in several of the parades – for
example, Krewe of Endymion, Krewe of Alla, Krewe of Muses, Krewe
D'Etat, Krewe of Bacchus, Legion of Mars, Krewe of Eve, Krewe of
Bonnepart (Lafayette, LA), and more. And how big is this thing
really? On the day of this interview, Sean was on his way out deliver
400 flags to a krewe. And that was only a
fraction of the total number.
The Yellow Flag Source for
After finding local fabric
stores an unreliable source for the needed materials, Sean did like
all of us and went online. He conducted a Google search for "yellow
At the top of the search
results was Wholesale For Everyone, as well a likely looking
competitor on the first page. After doing a quick comparison, Sean
found that Wholesale For Everyone (WFE) was more professional and had
the competitive prices he needed and so the competitor was ruled out.
Here's the process Sean used
to select Wholesale
For Everyone as his supplier for the raw materials for Mardi Gras
penalty flag throws. "The
competition's site was either antiquated or non-professional or both.
WFE had at the top of their page the 1-800 number and seemed welcome
to phone calls. The competitor's site mentioned that ordering calls
were not welcome and the number was only for customer service after
the order was placed. So, if I ordered from the competitor, would the
shipment get lost in the mail or be late? I needed these flags made
there's more: "I called up WFE and spoke to Jeff. Boom, order
placed, and I had the flag material in days. They even waved the
shipping cost. I placed another order. Boom, I had that order in a
few days as well. Yesterday morning, I placed an order for 640
pieces. An hour later, I called back to revise the order and add 60
pieces to it. No problem. The pieces were out the door yesterday, in
the mail at a very reasonable standard shipping cost, and will be at
my door tomorrow, 2 days later."
and accuracy were paramount. "Mardi Gras is March 5th,
and the riders need to get their flags in time to decorate them with
time to spare. WFE
delivered. Why would I order from anyone else?"
know that the people who came back from Hurricane Katrina can survive
a football catastrophe. And they can do it with a humorous ironic
twist. There may lie ahead a long Super Bowl Lent (at least a year
long) for the Saints and fans, but it's going to be kicked off with a
big Mardi Gras penalty flag party. "A laugh" – that's the
healthy way to deal with it.