Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Super Bowl

I don't get it. I swear I don't.

When I finished watching Super Bowl XL, here's what I thought:

--Darrell Jackson pushed off. It was light, but it was right in front of the official.
--The Roethlisberger TD was so close that I'd have been fine with either call, and neither call would have been reviewable (although I wish the head linesman had either stuck with his original dead-ball signal or gone with the TD at first).
--Didn't like the low block call against Hasselbeck, although the 15 yards on that weren't nearly as punitive as throwing the damn INT in the first place. No major impact on that one.
--Didn't like the holding call against Locklear.

And, more importantly,

--The Seahawks just didn't show up offensively. Not just Jerramy Stevens, but Jackson dropped a couple (and didn't get his second foot down in bounds in the first half when he easily could have for a TD), and D.J. Hackett (dropped a big one in the end zone that would have rendered the pass interference irrelevant...yeah, it would have been a tough catch, but it did hit him in the hands, and in the Super Bowl, that's a play he has to make). Punts went almost exclusively into the end zone. Two (admittedly long) field goals were missed. Drives were blown. In other words, I left convinced that the Seahawks had a far worse game than the refs did.

So when I heard whining on talk radio after the game, I just figured it was drunken dudes.

But I've heard a number of otherwise reasonable people talking about incompetence or, worse, impropriety. It could be that I live surrounded by Seahawks fans, and that it's much easier to vent one's spleen at the striped shirt than at the Seahawks' own many errors.

It simply wasn't that bad.

This post at an officiating board I frequent breaks down the three biggest complaints. I'm borrowing the pictures from it.

For starters, let's look at these pictures of pass interference. They're in chronological order.

Make these bigger if you can, or visit them on the officiating board where they're larger, but they show a player getting a critical advantage with a push. The defender is knocked back a couple of feet by the push...he goes from well off the "A" to on it. Additionally, Jackson is using him to change direction. Given that the ball is already in the air and fairly close to them at this time (note the players in the background are facing them), this move is the difference between a touchdown is not. Is it a tremendous push? No. Is it a tremendous advantage? I think it's enough of an advantage that it made the difference between Jackson catching it and not catchign it. Would Jackson have caught the ball without pushing off? No. Did the Steelers' Hope have a chance to defend the play because of the push-off? No. That's how I saw the play from the get-go. Honest. At the time, it didn't even occur to me that it would be controversial.

Let me quote my brother, with whom I watched the game. He's a non-official, so he's not biased like me. He says, I think reasonably, that if this play and the Roethlisberger TD had gone the other way, there would be people in Pittsburgh screaming their heads off about crappy refs and the fix being in. I totally agree. Can anyone convince me otherwise?

Anyway. I still don't like the holding call, but I understand it a little better after looking at this picture...the top one especially. Again, go to the officiating board if you want to see the full-sized version. Or better yet...

I just watched the live version of the play again. If you still have the game TiVoed, check it out.

Straight up: At full speed, it looks like holding.

The replays don't show it nearly as well as the live, original version does. It looks like it could be holding, and it even looks like Haggans had a shot at a sack were it not for Locklear's hold/nonhold. Check out the live, full-speed version, and it looks a LOT like Locklear hooks Haggans' arm and very nearly takes him to the ground. Of course, nobody's shown that play at full speed again...we just got the slo-mo at one angle. I'm still not convinced it's holding, but I'm a lot more comfortable with the flag now that I've seen the play again. Watch it live again. The technology actually let us down this time.

Now, Hasselbeck's block below the waist: bad call. Oh well. Didn't get 'em all.

A word about Michaels and Madden. They were eminently reasonable. I'm imagining what Joe Theismann would have done at this game, and it very easily could have made me even more homicidal than I normally feel towards him. Madden saying "If there was a hold, it wasn't in that picture?" Fine. Madden saying "That wasn't what you normally call a push-off" which Seahawks fans are quoting left and right this week? Reasonable. But he also said "He pushes off with his right hand five feet from the official." I didn't feel they were ref-bashing at all.

But the free-for-all that's started since then is ridiculous. I get the sense that, since this Super Bowl didn't have any real excitement or great storylines, they've made one up.

In any event, I keep hearing all of these "We need to do something!!!!"

My question: WHAT? Fire everybody? That likely won't work. Change the requirements for SB officiating? They're quite strict and performance-based already. Make officials full-time (what would they do the rest of the year? ref in Europe?)? I'm open to plans to improve officiating, always.

But does anyone have a plan that will work? I'm listening.

Anyway, one final word: In my (non-officiating) line of work, I get a lot of people who complain. They want to blame me for either their own shortcomings or bad breaks. I hate that. This is a toxic part of our culture that sucks.

Mike Holmgren and the whiny media have added to that culture this week.


At 5:38 AM, Blogger Joe said...

Thanks for the analysis. I agree with you - the Hasslebeck call was lousy, but the others are within the margin of human judgement.

Here's a thought, though. I'm sure I can recall at least one bad call that went against Pittsburgh... a play where a Seattle catch, followed by a 270 degree turn and at least 2 steps by the receiver, did not establish "possession". Should've been a fumble when he was hit and caughed up the ball.

Has anyone bothered to go back and look over all the officiating? Could it be that the Steelers managed to overcome 3 judgement calls against them? (And would it prove anything if true?)


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