The following post is my take on the recent controversy following the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers. All Things Democrat is a site geared for political posts which support the cause of the Democratic party. As such I will hide most of this post below the veritable fold. If the reader wants to learn why the referees made the right call and what really led to the ensuing uproar you are invited to click on that ”continue reading” button over there.
The following tome will deal with the play itself followed by my take on the societal meltdown which resulted.
Let me start with the completely forthright admission that I am a long suffering Seahawks fan. As such I am more than familiar with the angst felt by diehard fans at referee calls going against your team. Ask long term Hawks fans about the Testaverde “touchdown” , a blown call which contributed to the Hawks missing the playoffs so our coach lost his job. On the bright side that egregiously blown call resulted in the return of instant replay the following year.
Ask Hawks fans about the multitude of bad/blown calls which cost our team the win in Superbowl XL. Those calls were so bad that years later the head referee apologized to the team saying he had sleepless nights over those calls and he would carry it to his grave.
So I’m on board with Packer fans angst over the (mistaken) perception that the last play of Monday’s game should have been ruled an interception rather than a touchdown. Frankly I’ll even allow that there was one aspect of the play that should have gone against Seattle: the Seahawks receiver Golden Tate clearly shoved a Packer defender away prior to the ball arriving which, technically, should have been ruled pass interference resulting in the rest of the play being moot. However when it comes to jump ball situations at the end of the game, Tate’s shove was not the first and will not be the last technically illegal action in NFL history to not draw a flag. Honestly that sort of activity is rather commonplace in that situation, so while Green Bay should have been given the benefit of that on a technicality let us recognize the inoccuous nature of that non-call. I suppose if the tables were reversed I would be peeved at the non-call so there is that.
On to the real crux of the controversy: Was the catch an outright interception or a simultaneous catch with the result favoring the receiver. Here is a link to an article which gives a frame by frame breakdown of the play with a detailed explanation as to why the replacement ref’s got it right. Thank you (!) Scot Kacsmar for being about the only analyst with any sort of audience outside of Seattle to swim against the overwhelming wave of popular sentiment on this one.
Very briefly, because the reader can see for themselves, the article linked above shows Tate with both hands on the ball and both feet on the ground followed by a wrestling match. In fact the Green Bay player has his arm wrapped over Tates arm which is on the ball the entire time so it is Tate that has both hands/arms on the ball when they hit the ground, not the defender.
When the play happened in real time there were several announcers calling the play. Listening to those respective calls, from pro Seattle to Green Bay radio to ESPN hosts, there is not one call as the play happens which sounds as if the announcer has seen an obvious interception followed by an inexplicable touchdown call. ESPN’s announcer Mike Tirico uses the word simultaneous in real time to describe the play. None of the announcers is certain as the play develops about the outcome one way or the other.
If the play was such an obvious interception you would expect to hear some announcer somewhere call it like this: “Wilson rolls to his left and heaves the ball into the endzone, jump ball, Green Bay interception! An amazing defensive effort by… wait a minute… the Refs are calling it a touchdown!?! UNBELIEVABLE!” That all caps exclamatory freakout reaction to the call is only found in commentary following the play, not during the play itself.
It was only with the benefit of instant replay that the outrage from the announcers started shaping the perceptions of the rest of the nation as to the play. If the various announcers had difficulty making heads or tails of the play in real time why would the referees be able to see intricate details of the play in real time? It was a bang bang play and when the referees got to the scrum they saw both players fighting for the ball. That situation invariably, and correctly, favors the receiver.
There has been much made of the different calls by the two officials standing over the pile. One raises his hands to signal touchdown while the other waves his hands to stop the clock. The widespread speculation is that the clock stoppage was in anticipation of a touchback from an interception in the endzone. However presuming that referee was calling a touchback is presumptuous at best as he never starts the signal for a touchback or indicates a change of possession by pointing to the Green Bay endzone. The clock is stopped in either case, be it a touchdown or interception in the endzone. He may be simply anticipating a conference of the officiating crew to talk through the play, sort of like indicating “ok, lets stop the clock while we figure this mess out”. Or he may just intuitively know the clock should stop regardless of the call on the field so he’s doing the one thing he knows needs to get done.
Once the play was over the talking heads perused the replay in super slow mo and the next couple of minutes set the stage for a national freak out of epic proportions. This national mob reaction was triggered by ESPN, and Jon Gruden in particular. His reaction immediately following the play was fiery, describing how it was tragic, a shame and that Green Bay should be given the game rather than having to fly home 6000 miles (actually about 2000 miles) after losing a game like that. Even Mike Tirico, who used the word simultaneous in his real time play call, later claimed the play looked like an interception from his perspective.
Replacement ref’s blowing the call and costing Green Bay the game fit in nicely with a narrative that was steadily building for weeks leading into the game. The replacements were, at the least, incompetent and at worst dangerous. Believe you me, I am no fan of scab officials or anyone else who would take advantage of a labor dispute to work someone else’s job and assist the owners. The one bright spot in the ensuing outrage was that the “real” refs got what they wanted and were back on the field the next week.
Nevertheless, the narrative going into the Monday night game was focused on incompetent officiating and the Sunday games did nothing to alleviate the pressure on the replacements. To be sure, the Monday game was chock full of questionable and outright bad calls by the replacements. But that pent up frustration was unleashed following a correct call, in direct response to that call.
Whether you care about football or not you witnessed a universal wave of calumny on all the major media aimed at the league, the ref’s, Tate, the Seahawks and their fans, the city of Seattle, the state of Washington, Coach Carroll, Notre Dame because that is Tates Alma Mater, Foot Locker because their employees wear ref like clothing, and anyone who thought the play was even close.
ESPN analyst Mike Greenburg went so far as to speculate that it was the worst call in the history of the NFL. The WORST call in the history of the LEAGUE! A bang bang play with both guys on the ground wrestling over the ball is the worst of the worst? Get some perspective dude! (I suppose after spending all afternoon bashing out a post about a football play on ATD the reader wants me to get some perspective of my own, no?) Notably ESPN benefited from the controversy with a huge increase in viewership of Sportscenter immediately following the game.
Even President Obama found occasion to hope for the end of the lockout in a very bipartisan, non controversial way. Obama was careful to not lose votes in either Wisconsin or Washington. The Republican side of the ticket felt no compunction in losing votes in Washington. Paul Ryan made himself look silly by analogizing the need to replace the replacements with the (supposed) need to replace President Obama.
From my perspective this entire situation is about the closest thing I’ve ever seen to induced mass delusion leading to mass hysteria. The narrative leading into the game was a perfect set up for a completely over wrought reaction to a perceived mistake which actually was not a mistake at all.
Or maybe it’s time for me to admit that I’m not infallible, the entire world (including my wife!) sees this play differently from myself, and I need to admit the obvious truth. …. … NAH!