Wow, is this long-dormant page getting
Four years after my original post below,
Super Bowl official Bill Leavy told a gathering of very receptive
Seattle media the following:
"It was a tough thing
for me. I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter and I
impacted the game, and as an official you never want to
Referee Bill Leavy
apologizes to Seahawks, read the triumphant headline in
the Seattle Times, and then they listed all the
"questionable" calls in the game, regardless of the quarter
in which they took place. Again, I'm hearing from the locals
about the Jackson first-quarter pushoff. My God, I have no
respect for these people. Are they unable to separate
comforting fictions from fact—or just unwilling?
Toward that end, okay,
Leavy thinks he "kicked" a couple of calls in the fourth
quarter. I assume that means "blew." Maddeningly, he didn't
specify which calls, let alone why he now thinks they were
errors. So we're left to speculate.
There were exactly two
penalties in the fourth quarter:
block, which admittedly was at best a ticky-tack call
and at worse bogus, and
call, which as you can see in the below sequence was
pretty far from bogus. Its apparent inclusion further
baffles me because holding is typically called by the
umpire and would not have been reviewable by referee
The holding call was
undoubtedly a drive-killer, nullifying a 1st and goal from
the 1. The ball was intercepted on the next play. It was
during that interception that Hasselbeck was called for the
low block, moving Pittsburgh's ensuing possession from the
29 to the 44. A few plays after that was Randel El's bomb to
So while Seattle fans
rejoice in their vindication on the Jackson calls, where
does leave those of us who listened to what Leavy said?
Was Locklear innocent?
The eye in the sky don't lie.
Did Leavy even call
that holding penalty? Mail me if you know.
Did Hasselbeck throw a
low block? Iffy. For the sake of argument, let's say he
Did the extra 15 yards
matter on the bomb? They certainly didn't hurt. But then
was ten yards behind any Seahawk. That play could have
gone for 150 yards. Nope. Not feeling a lot of guilt
In the eleven
minutes after the last penalty, did Seattle stop Pittsburgh from scoring or
running out the clock in a single-score game—a game in
which Seattle had already missed two field goals and
dropped one touchdown pass? Why, no. No, Seattle did
not. Thanks for asking.
final points, did Seattle have nine more freaking
minutes to score in which they did absolutely
nothing to win the game? Absolutely.
A few months ago, I watched
NFL Films footage of the Steelers' playoff game with
Indianapolis that same year. Troy Polamalu's game-sealing
interception was under review, and the camera caught Cowher
exhorting his players on the sideline. He must have known
that ref was gonna kick it in the fourth quarter. "You
cannot control what happens here," he snarled to his team.
"Keep your heads in the game and on what you can control,"
he said. And sure enough, the refs botched the call and
Indianapolis made it close—but the Steelers prevailed
It was impossible for me
not to contrast Cowher's quote with that of the losing Super
Bowl coach a few weeks later: "We knew it was going to be
tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't
know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped
shirts, as well," said Holmgren.
If there are better
embodiments of the words "winner" and "loser," I haven't
I've gotten lots of hate mail
in the years since I posted the below, the basic theme of which
was "See how bogus
it was? You had to write a rebuttal! hahahahahaha" Lots of
those. Only misspelled. Very convincing stuff. Funny thing,
though: can you guess how how many emails I've gotten that
refuted a single one of my arguments? Or that included new
evidence, like a
different photo angle?
Hint: it's the same as the number of
points Seattle scored in the final nine minutes.
April 9, 2006
Two months of unabated mutual masturbation
has made Hawks fans delirious and spiteful.
I am not to enjoy this Super Bowl win, I'm reminded nearly every day,
because the refs jobbed Seattle. Seahawk coach Mike Holmgren, perhaps sensing that he
has the means of throwing attention off the worst Super Bowl coaching
performance since Packer coach Mike Holmgren ordered his defense to let
Terrell Davis score, fanned
the flames. "We knew it was going to be tough going up against the
Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the
guys in the striped shirts, as well," he told circle-jerking Hawks fans
at a pep rally. Curiously, his egregious clock management and utter
failure to counter the Steelers' halftime adjustments were not
It worked. "Just you wait," Seahawks
fans predicted to me Very Importantly. "The NFL will issue one of their
customary apologies." When the NFL instead issued a detailed explanation as to why
the calls were correct, the same fans demonstrated
astounding intellectual dexterity: "Figures! What did you expect them to say?"
It was then that I realized that
whatever the facts, these fans were determined to guzzle bitter whine
made from sour grapes. I've been in this territory before. When it comes
to championship losses, fans always
have to blame someone besides their team. As
soon as the gun sounded on Super Bowl XIII, Dallas fans hung their
wounded pride on the
pass interference call on Bennie Barnes (which was admittedly pretty
iffy). A year later, it was Rams fans harping on the same thing.
And University of Miami fans still howl about a 2002 pass interference call
on contact that wasn't even televised. And on and on. In short, no championship
that my teams have won has been earned. Ever. Isn't that odd.
Did the Steelers repeatedly benefit
from penalties in the game? No doubt. I said "Thank God" at
least twice in
response to a call. But in blaming the messenger, Seattle fans are
presupposing that their team played within the rules on the plays in
question—a demonstrably dubious assumption. One might as well have
blamed Mills Lane for disqualifying Tyson after he bit off Holyfield's
ear. Stupid Mills Lane. Those were Tyson's best plays! Every time
Tyson hurt Holyfield, Mills stopped him. Why, he just
handed the fight to Holyfield. I knew if would be tough for Tyson
to go up against Holyfield, but I didn't know he was going up against
the guy in the bow tie, too!
An exaggerated analogy, but sometimes
it's how I feel. Now, I'm not entirely unsympathetic. I know how much it
hurts to lose a Super Bowl to a team that in many respects you
outplayed, and I understand preferring to say "we wuz robbed" over "we
were sloppy." And I'm not ungracious; I didn't rub it in, and I
celebrated discreetly. You saw no party pictures on
Stank. I even indulged Hawks fans'
coping mechanism—right up to the point where they felt compelled to
reach out and shit on me and my team. There's a line, and Seattle fans
have crossed it.
We will now deal with the available evidence—not with oral tradition,
not with collective wishful thinking. Toward that end, I'd like to
examine the controversial calls, one at a time. Why? So I have a
club with which to beat the aforementioned whiney bitches
senseless. I'll skip the various interference, holding and clipping
penalties the refs let Seattle get away with and just focus on the
Hawks fans' points of contention.
If you have better pics or footage, do
send it along. These were the best I could find.
Remember, the accusation is that these
calls were demonstrably wrong. Roethlisberger's touchdown Argument: He ball didn't break the plane of the goal line.
Like you can tell. It's definitely not a touchdown on his
second effort—only his initial lunge is in question. It happened
right in front of me, but I'd be lying if I said I saw the play well
enough to make the call. And that goes for replays, too. I've never seen
an angle in which it can be definitively said that the ball crossed the
plane. Or that it didn't. Here are the two best shots I could find. If
at any point part of the ball is over even a millimeter of the white line, it's a touchdown.
Hmm. Is that Bettis' face mask being
gripped, there? Never mind, moving along...
Yeah, I know. The angles suck. If you
have better photos, send them in. From these, I can't
honestly say whether or not this is a touchdown. Fortunately for me, the
burden of proof is on those who shriek that this is a blown call. Pony
up your evidence or shut up. One thing's for sure: either way, it was a
question of centimeters, not inches, and it was only third down besides.
Hasselbeck's low block Argument: What the...? Blocking? He was making the tackle!
Contrary to mythology rooted in Seattle, the refs
did not invent this rule for the Super Bowl.
It's a crap rule, but its application
here was consistent with how the rule was enforced all season. Low blocks are called,
and called often, on interception returns against the team that
threw the interception. Notable tacklers Brett Favre and Tiki Barber are
on the list, right there with Matt Hasselbeck. (Notably, the exact same
call had just been made against Steeler receiver Antwaan Randel El
against Cincinnati, which makes me really unreceptive to all the
whining.) Blocking (contact is
either "tackling" or "blocking") below the waist is dangerous, and the
rule exists on interception returns in order to protect the players'
health. You are therefore not allowed to cut a non-ball-carrier below the waist. Well hell, here's how former NFL ref (and
noted scoundrel) Jerry Markbreit breaks it down:
When a pass is intercepted, both
teams are restricted from blocking below the waist. When a passing
team man dives low in an attempt to tackle the intercepting player
and, in the process, blocks a member of the intercepting team below
the waist, even though he may make the tackle, a foul for illegal low
block should be called. It does not matter whether the passing team
player is attempting to make a tackle. If he intentionally goes low
and, in the process, hits an opponent below the waist, it is an
In other words, in trying to make the
tackle on #24 Taylor, Hasselbeck supposedly contacted #23 below the knees. Was it on purpose?
I don't know. I also don't care. Was it sloppy and against
the rules? Yep. Was it any worse than El's infraction? Nope. In any
event, whether or not this rule should exist is certainly debatable,
but the "he was making the tackle!" mythology is pure
A non-rule. It's irrelevant, and IMO its pervasiveness nicely illustrates
the expertise level of Hawks fans. Better to argue that he didn't touch
#23 at all. Which I'm not sure he did.
One other note about this play: after
the tackle, the Seahawks' Sean Locklear illegally and quite obviously
blocked Steeler Deshea Townsend in the back. No call. Clearly, the refs
were handing the game to Seattle.
Jackson's catch out of bounds Argument: he got one foot in bounds and the other hit the pylon.
I agree. That's exactly what happened.
See "expertise level," above. Sayeth notable crook Markbreit:
The rule states that a receiver must
get both feet inbounds with the ball in his possession to complete a
catch. In the play in question, his left foot did get in, but the
second foot hit the pylon, which is out of bounds in the end zone,
thus making the play an incomplete pass.
Locklear's hold on Haggans Argument: It wasn't holding because....um....because it I didn't
want it to be! (Hey, I'm doing my best with some pretty thin-ass arguments, here.)
I don't even know what to say, so I'll
let the NFL rule book say it for me:
Hand(s) or arm(s) that
hook an opponent are to be considered illegal and officials are to
call a foul for holding. Blocker cannot use his hands or arms to push
from behind, hang onto, or encircle an opponent in a manner that
restricts his movement as the play develops.
Whazzat? You can't hook the guy? Hang
on to him? Push him from behind? Can I call holding on Locklear three
times on one play? Watch the hands and arms.
Where the hook sets. Note the sudden
arrest of Haggans' forward lean.
If you don't think there's enough here
to call holding, well, perhaps I can interest you in another sport?
Astoundingly, that's not their worst argument.
Jackson's offensive pass interference Argument: it wasn't interference because...um....it would have been a
The one I hear about the most, and also
the most flagrant example of idiotic group-think. The rule:
Actions that constitute
offensive pass interference include but are not limited to...(b)
Initiating contact with a defender by shoving or pushing off thus
creating a separation in an attempt to catch a pass.
And here's the pushing off that created
separation a nanosecond before the catch:
I couldn't believe it when I finally
saw this on tape. Both of Hope's feet go backward a couple feet! This
is controversial? What's their argument,
that the rule requires that three of his feet be shoved backward two
integrity test for any Seahawk fans still reading: if the roles are
reversed, and Hope shoves Jackson and intercepts the ball, you're not
screaming for a pass interference call? Right? Right. In any event, thanks. You took a
Super Bowl in which my team played poorly and about which I was
having trouble being excited, and you made winning it feel as gratifying
and morally imperative as toppling Hirohito. So please. Continue. I'll
bring you back photos from the ring ceremony, cheaters.