DENVER - “Thank you!” gushed Nina Albright, as she opened a present from her in-laws on Christmas morning. “I absolutely love it!”
Nina then held up the gift in question, a teal-and-white sweater, to be admired by the other family members at the Albrights’ home.
The call on the field was that Nina truly loved the sweater, but Nina’s mother-in-law, Michelle Albright, saw something she didn’t like and threw the red challenge flag.
“She’s faking it,” Michelle declared. “It’s her body language—I can tell. That ungrateful girl doesn’t like our gift.”
As the referees huddled over the replay monitor, announcers Jim Nantz and Tony Romo offered their take.
“At full speed, it certainly looks like Nina’s ‘thank you’ is sincere,” Romo said. “But let’s slow it down and look at her reaction from another angle.”
As rapt viewers watched, CBS Sports switched to an angle to Nina’s left and slowed the replay down to half speed.
“Hmm, now this is interesting,” Nantz said, as the tape rolled. “From the straight-ahead view, Nina’s smile seems genuine. From this angle, though, look at the corner of her mouth. It appears to be twitching in a downward direction.”
“You’re right, Jim,” Romo said. “Christmas morning is a game of inches, or sometimes even millimeters. Here, that little turn of her lips could be important.”
“Remember, though, the call on the field was ‘sincere’,” Nantz said. “There would have to be indisputable visual evidence to overturn it.”
Romo and Nantz then brought in Gene Steratore, the CBS Sports rules analyst.
“What do you think New York is seeing on this one, Gene?” Nantz asked.
“It’s really close,” Steratore said. “A bang-bang play. Look at her hands, though. See that? Freeze, right there!”
The replay screen froze, and Steratore circled Nina’s hands in yellow. “Her fists clench right when she’s saying the last syllable of ‘absolutely’ and the word ‘love.’ That, plus the mouth issue you identified a moment ago, could be enough to get this call reversed.”
“If she was insincere, Tony, you’ve got to ask why,” Jim said.
“It may not factor into the referees’ decision, but viewers at home are going to wonder.” “Some folks call me ‘Romodamus’ for my predictive prowess,” Romo said, “so I’ll just indulge in a little bit of speculation if you don’t mind?”
At Nantz’s assent, Romo continued, “We may never know for sure, but my best guess is that Nina saw this same sweater on the T.J. Maxx Last-Minute Super-Clearance rack when she stopped by yesterday. She knows it was marked down to $9.99 and may be upset that her in-laws wouldn’t spend a little more on her, particularly since they’re both cardiac surgeons.”
“Great point, Tony,” Nantz added. “It may also be worth noting that the sweater is woolen, and Nina is allergic. Also, the sweater is—objectively speaking—embarrassingly ugly.”
At that moment, the referees announced that the call on the field had been reversed, and Nina’s thank-you was officially declared insincere.
“I knew it,” huffed Michelle. “She’s not good enough for my little boy. I wish he would realize it!”
For her part, Nina just shook her head, seemingly disgusted—though, with the call, the sweater, her mother-in-law, or all the above, it was impossible to tell.
She then walked into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, where cameras positioned there caught her spiking her beverage with a considerable amount of Jack Daniels.
After the shocking reversal, the Albrights’ Christmas morning gift-opening continued in a normal fashion, until Michelle informed her seven-year-old grandson, Max, that his new Lego set was a gift from Santa.
“I challenge,” Max said, attempting to throw a red flag to determine whether Santa is real.
The grown-ups quickly conferred and decided that the children were out of challenges.