A National Disgrace

Okay, okay…we get it. If a site which covers nothing but the Seattle Seahawks cries "FOUL!!!" upon witness of the single most shameful officiating clusterfrank in the history of American sports, we tend to get the "homer" disqualification – especially by irritated Steelers fans, who would prefer not to be chased by that pesky asterisk for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately for them, the word’s out. It seems that a few people actually watched Super Bowl XL (hey…WrestleMania packs ‘em in, too…), and a few of those viewers happen to represent the old and honored sportswriting profession. Somehow, there’s been quite the national bru-ha-ha about this game – and this came from the same media that spent the two weeks before the Big Game openly rooting for the Steelers and categorically ignoring the Seahawks.

Perhaps, like Steeler fans, said members of the Fourth Estate are just as tired of that asterisk.

Bad luck!

And how excited do you think the NFL is to see such a national uproar? On the day after the year’s biggest frat party, Commissioner Tagliabue would have to discuss the NFL’s worst nightmare – a Super Bowl in which the wrong team won.

The only problem is that Tagliabue hasn’t said “boo” yet. Neither has Head of Officials Mike Pereira, who is generally first out of the box with a windy, obtuse explanation when the zebras Screw One Up For the Gipper.

At publication time, there has been no mention of the officiating gaffes on www.nfl.com, or the NFL Network. The latter’s Derrin Horton merely discounted all iffy calls as “close, but correct” and made with the Steeler love.

We here at Seahawks.NET are absolutely, positively, 150% sure that the only reason for this omission is that the league wishes to engage in a detailed review process before relaying their side of things.

Or something like that.

In the meantime, we would like to add the following linked articles, written by national, non-Seahawk-rooting journalists, to our own coverage of this absolute travesty.

Now, the only thing to do is to wait for the NFL to emerge from its hidey-hole and face the music.

"Refs were far from Super in this one" by Kevin Hench - FoxSports.com

This is the space where I get to wag a finger at my colleague Ian O'Connor, with whom I'd waged a dueling columns battle of opposing prognostication. He picked the Seahawks and made a very strong case for them.

This is the space where I get to say, I told ya so. But I won't. I can't.

I've never felt so empty being right. I feel dirty. I wish I'd been wrong. The Steelers did not deserve to win this game. They were not the better team. O'Connor was right. Seattle was the better team.

So, Paul Tagliabue, how does a team lose when it outgains an opponent by 57 yards, controls time of possession and wins the turnover battle?

Like a crazed CIA analyst running through the halls of Langley screaming into open offices about some impending calamity, I've been shrieking hysterically about the terrible officiating in the NFL and warning that some day the brutal calls were going to affect the outcome of the Super Bowl.

That some day was Sunday.

"Game's third team upstaged Steelers, Hawks" by Michael Smith - ESPN.com

Three weeks ago, after the Steelers held on to upset Indianapolis, Joey Porter was unhappy about the overturning of Troy Polamalu's fourth-quarter interception that could have sealed the win much earlier. Believing that deep down the league preferred Peyton Manning and the Colts to win, Porter publicly criticized the game officials, asking them not to "take the game from us."

Well, the Steelers can call it even now, as the officials who performed well enough throughout the season to earn the privilege of working Super Bowl XL performed Sunday as though they were trying to make it up to the Steelers by giving them the game -- not just any game, but the biggest game. And, yes, this time the other guys, the Seahawks, cried conspiracy, only not quite as loudly as Porter.

"You know, that's what happens when the world is against you," one Seahawk said after the 21-10 loss at Ford/Heinz Field. "No one wanted us to win. They wanted Jerome Bettis to win and go out a hero, and they got it."

"Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl" - by Football Outsiders

Aaron Schatz: I am glad to see that everyone pretty much agrees with me. I feel so disappointed. I don’t feel that the refs stole this game from the Seahawks. I feel that the refs stole a great game from us, the fans of the other 30 teams. Nothing says that with better officiating, Seattle would have won. Nothing says that if Seattle goes up 17-14, Big Ben can’t march the Steelers down the field and win the game in the final minute. But wow, I really would have liked to see him try. I can’t remember another Super Bowl where I came away saying that the officiating was horrible, and totally slanted towards one team.

Most of the egregious calls have been mentioned, but if I can add a couple more: Roethlisberger’s Delay of Game where they gave him a timeout after the clock hit zero, and the fact that the folks upstairs did not review the play where Darrell Jackson’s foot hit the pylon. I don’t know, what’s the rule on that? Clearly he had one foot in and the other one hit the pylon before landing out of bounds.

Watching in Boston, with no Pittsburgh fans and no Seattle fans, by the end of the game we were just screaming at the refs. The Locklear call was the worst, as Ian Dembsky pointed out, the Steelers were doing the same “shove” move on Grant Wistrom the entire first half. We started marking down every play where Pittsburgh was holding. When Randle El caught the seven-yard pass on third-and-6, Hartings was yanking on the jersey and shoulder of Darby. On Big Ben’s scramble for a first down, Hines Ward yanked on Trufant’s arm to keep him away from Big Ben.

They say holding happens on every play in the NFL. Every play is a judgment call. Fine, but why should all the iffy judgment calls go one way? You don’t want to think about conspiracies, but it just seemed like for two weeks, the league, ABC/ESPN, the city of Detroit, and the NFL wanted the Seahawks to just go away so the Steelers could have the title, like Seattle wasn’t even in the game. They ran those black and white vingettes of players talking about winning the trophy and the FIRST FOUR were Pittsburgh players. Maybe the way the officials acted was just subconscious.

"Refs were bad, but they weren't the only ones" by Aaron Schatz - FoxSports.com

The fact is, we were robbed — all of us who love the NFL.

I don't feel that the refs stole this game from the Seahawks. I feel that the refs stole a great game from us, the fans of the other 30 teams. Nothing says that with better officiating, Seattle would have won. Nothing says that if Seattle goes up 17-14 after the phantom holding call on Sean Locklear, Big Ben can't march the Steelers down the field to win the game in the final minutes. But wow, I really would have liked to see him try.

Pittsburgh was robbed too. The Steelers were cheated out of proper recognition for the amazing feat they just accomplished. No team had ever won the Super Bowl without a home game in the playoffs. The Steelers surpassed the record held by last year's Patriots for the toughest set of opponents faced on the way to a championship (according to average regular-season record). They made some awesome plays: Willie Parker's touchdown run, the option pass, the great play call on a Deshea Townsend blitz.

But this will always be remembered as the Super Bowl that the referees screwed up.

"The NFL Officially Has a Problem" by Rich Tandler - WarpathInsiders.com

The cumulative effect of all of this has been quite damaging to the NFL. An unscientific poll of members of the CPND Redskins Addiction Board here shows that a majority believes that NFL officials have performed with “alarming incompetence”. Anyone who is going to shell out money to attend an athletic event or invest the time to watch one on TV wants the outcome to be determined by the players, not by the officials. The more people perceive that the team that gets the calls is the one that wins, the less popular the game will be.

The worse news for Tagliabue is that people thinking that the referees are merely grossly incompetent is the better case scenario here. There are those who are calling the very integrity of the officials into question. Many of them are bitter Seahawk fans who probably will calm down and angry gamblers who gave the four. But not all of them are from the Pacific Northwest and not all of them are going to go back to watching football as usual.

I am not one to believe that there is any conspiracy to tilt the officiating towards one team or another. As a practical matter, there isn’t enough gain in having, say, the Steelers win to balance the risk of the incredible damage the league would suffer if word of any plot to fix a game were to get out.

That being said, I will say this. If a crew of officials, for whatever reason, was inclined to fix a game they would have made exactly the calls they made against the Seahawks on Sunday. The timing and impact of the calls could not have been better had there been a sinister plot to ensure that the Steelers would be crowned as champs.

Perception is reality, especially in a sports league. The NFL will only remain popular if people perceive that it’s on the up and up. The events of Super Bowl Sunday will no doubt harden the suspicions of the conspiracy theorists and push more people into the ranks of the cynics. You don’t need Oliver Stone to do a movie about this situation to give it some legs.

It’s enough to make Tagliabue long for the days of Janet Jackson and Desperate Housewives

PFT X-PACK:  SUPER BOWL XL - The Calls - by ProFootballTalk.com

 

First, the offensive pass interference call on Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson was borderline at best.  Yes, Jackson pushed off.  A little.  At a minimum, the flag on Jackson should have been negated by an illegal contact flag on Steelers safety Chris Hope, who grabbed at Jackson's arm well beyond the five-yard chuck zone -- and who then put his hands on Jackson an instant before the Jackson extended his arms. 

 

Second, one of Jerramy Stevens' dropped passes actually was a catch and a fumble at the Steelers 25.  But the officials blew the play dead as an incompletion before the Steelers could make the recovery, wiping out any chance at a replay review.  Still, James Farrior would have recovered the ball inside the ten, and he might not have gotten back to the 20 via the return.  On the very next play, Seahawks punter Tom Rouen kicked into the end zone, giving the Steelers the ball at the 20.  So even though the call went Seattle's way, there was no real advantage.

 

Third, the Ben Roethlisberger touchdown was a questionable call on the field followed by a proper use of instant replay.  The official who ran in from the sideline initially put his hand in the air as if he were going to spot the ball inside the one, and then the official abruptly decided that Roethlisberger had gotten into the end zone. 

 

But what the hell did the guy see?  Apparently, he was influenced by the fact that Ben pushed the ball into the end zone after the play ended.  Since the replay angle was shot from the same perspective that the official had, it's hard to believe the official saw the ball break the plane. 

 

"On the Big Stage, This One Is Nothing to Sing About" by Michael Wilbon - The Washington Post

And when Seattle wasn't bungling, the referees were.

Seattle should have been ahead by a couple of touchdowns, yet found themselves down 7-3 at halftime because the referees blew a call. Roethlisberger's third-down dive into the end zone simply was not a touchdown, though it was called that on the field. Because less than two minutes remained, the call was reviewed in the booth. It was clearly and conclusively not a touchdown. Big Ben didn't get the ball across the goal line. Yet, the call stood.

Another penalty assessed on the Seahawks early in the fourth quarter, which negated a gain that took the Seahawks to the 1, also never happened. A penalty against Hasselbeck for blocking below the waist when, in fact, he was trying to tackle the interceptor, was erroneous. It would be irresponsible to say the officials were intentionally cheating Seattle. But the bad calls hurt Seattle's chances, no doubt.

"Iffy Officiating" by The Chicago Sun-Times

The Seahawks were on the wrong end of most of the key calls Sunday. Here's a look at three that hurt Seattle most:

Score: 0-0.
Quarter: First.
Possession: Seahawks. Situation: First-and-10 on Steelers' 16. Call: After Matt Hasselbeck hits Darrell Jackson for an apparent touchdown, Jackson is called for pass interference. The Seahawks settle for a field goal. Comment: The contact made you'll see on most passing plays in the NFL.

Score: Seahawks, 3-0.
Quarter: Second.
Possession: Steelers. Situation: Third-and-one on Seahawks' 1.
Call: Ben Roethlisberger goes around the left side and dives for the goal line. The official on the line hesitates, then signals for a touchdown. Referee Bill Leavy upholds the call on replay. Comment: The call on the field could have gone either way, and there was no conclusive evidence to overturn it, but what was with the hesitation?

Score: Steelers, 14-10.
Quarter: Fourth.
Possession: Seahawks. Situation: First-and-10 on Steelers' 19.
Call: Hasselbeck connects with Jerramy Stevens at the Steelers' 1, but holding is called on right tackle Sean Locklear. Three plays later, Hasselbeck throws an interception that leads to a Steelers touchdown.

Comment: The apparent holding you'll see on most passing plays in the NFL.

"Throw a flag on these Super Bowl referees" by Jason Whitlock - Kansas City Star (Miami Herald)

But make no mistake about Super Bowl XL, the performance of referee Bill Leavy and his crew overshadowed Pittsburgh's heroics and Seattle's blunders.

Paul Tagliabue's league has an officiating crisis. Bogus, inconsistent flag-throwing and rule-interpreting is making the national pastime difficult to take seriously. So far, only Joey Porter has demonstrated the necessary courage to address what we all see.

Many of these part-time, 50-year-old referees don't know what they're doing and can't keep up with the action.

Porter fumed when the refs nearly stole Pittsburgh's playoff victory over Indianapolis by overturning a Troy Polamalu interception.

Porter probably won't address the first-quarter touchdown that Sunday's referees stole from the Seahawks. Hasselbeck avoided pressure and hit Darrell Jackson in the back of the end zone with a beautiful strike. The Pittsburgh cornerback immediately turned to back judge Bob Waggoner and begged for an offensive pass-interference call. After a couple of seconds of thought, Waggoner granted the Pittsburgh request and erased Seattle's hard-earned touchdown.

The Seahawks settled for a field goal. Had they not been robbed of the four points, they would have ended the game with the ball and the opportunity to drive for a game-tying touchdown.

"Super Bowl Refs Steal Seahawks Show" by Chris Sprow - The Chicago Sports Review

 

Given the opportunity before the game to line up against 12 players in black and gold each play, or against the powers-that-be of the NFL and its representative referees, the Seahawks probably would have chosen the latter, assuming the NFL's delegation of stripes couldn't possibly take them behind the woodshed, when, in front of nearly 100 million viewers, there simply would be no place to poison the game in seclusion.

Bad call.

They should have opted to give the Steelers the 12th man. Because, in the form of the officials, the Steelers got more than that.

They got an NFL-sized stamp of approval on their franchise, while Seattle, quite plainly, got the shaft.

If you're convinced that any rant on this topic is a mere case of heading to Disneyland and walking away only complaining of the long lines, look around. This isn't a quiet case of conspiracy theory, or call it repeated bad calls against one under-represented team theory. Really, I could never say the league was involved in something tantamount to a fix. Won't do it.

But they do need to assure fans that they care enough to perform the review, even if it's merely lip-service, so fans can be assured that what we all saw wasn't omitted from the view of those in charge.

Let's face it, I'm merely stacking a little wood on an already warm fire.

And that has to be done, because the Seahawks themselves won't bring it up.

They know too well that Tags will be waiting to hand out tickets. And perhaps fortunately, because the errors were so remarkably egregious for a stage so big, they can let the rest of us impartials do their complaining for them.

They deserve at least that.

 

"Fans Enraged over Officials' Calls" - KIRO TV.com

 

Two calls by the officials will be debated all winter, spring and summer.

In one, Darrell Jackson was called for pushing Chris Hope away as he broke to catch Matt Hasselbeck's pass in the back of the end zone. Replays showed Jackson extended his arm, but Jackson argued vainly there was no push involved. Seattle settled for a 47-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead -- instead of a 7-0 one.

Later, referees ruled that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got the ball to touch the goal-line plane on his 1-yard score with 1:55 left, which put the Seahawks behind for good, 7-3.

Referee Bill Leavy upheld the call after a replay review. Holmgren then upbraided Leavy on his way off the field at halftime.

Holmgren walked over to Leavy, a fifth-year referee calling his first Super Bowl, and could be seen angrily telling him, "It wasn't even close."

"TV unveils zebras at their worst" by Chris Zelkovich - The Toronto Star

Seconds later, Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck tossed up an interception and was penalized for a low block on the play, even though he was tackling, not blocking. ``We think it was a bad call," Michaels said. ``It's kind of like adding insult to injury."

The officials weren't done with Hasselbeck. After Pittsburgh scored to put the game away, they ruled he fumbled.

Fortunately, a replay review showed he hadn't.

Now some might suggest this was a plot to ensure the Jerome Bettis Comes Home story had a happy ending.

But even a level-headed football fan had to wonder why such questionable officiating had to play such a big role. The fact that the all-seeing eye of the camera has exposed officials throughout the playoffs won't do anything to alleviate those concerns.

One of the reasons ABC used 36 cameras yesterday was to ensure viewers saw everything.

The league might consider asking the networks to cut back a bit on their hardware, or find better officials.

"Give The Super Bowl MVP To The Officials" by Bob George - BosSports.net

Take away the officiating, and the Seahawks can hang their heads on their inability to finish drives, and three big plays on offense by the Steelers. Late in the second quarter, facing third down and 28 on the Seattle 40, Roethlisberger found a wide open Ward at the three, covered poorly by Michael Boulware. The inexcusable gaffe led to a one-yard touchdown run by Roethlisberger which made it 7-3 Pittsburgh. The long run by Parker and the Randle El touchdown pass were the other two big plays for the Steelers.

But it will be interesting to see what kind of a spin NFL officials director Mike Pereira puts on this game. He is to be commended for his willingness to come on the NFL Network and explain controversial calls every week, but he will have some explaining to do about the Jackson “pushoff” and the Locklear “hold”. He will in all likelihood say something like “Well, it’s a judgment call, and in my opinion the official made a good call…” or something like that. But both calls turned out to be huge, and they ultimately cost Seattle a world championship.

Of course, Seattle could have stopped those three big plays, also. But in this year of bad postseason officiating, these bad calls are magnified a thousand fold. Leavy, who did distinguish himself when he overruled (correctly) a Hasselbeck fumble, led a crew which did a poor job, plain and simple.

"Stealers - How the referees handed Pittsburgh the Super Bowl" by Robert Weintraub - Slate.com

A media meme emerged late in the long, two-week march to the Super Bowl: Since everyone had basically handed the game to Pittsburgh, Seattle was sure to shock everyone and win. Unfortunately for underdog lovers, no one briefed the refs about this scenario. Remember all that screaming about the Troy Polamalu pick that wasn't against the Colts a few weeks ago? Well, the Steelers got so much payback last night that I'm sure Steelers fans have found it in their hearts to forgive the men in black and white.

Four critical calls stood out. A rinky-dink offensive pass interference flag wiped out an early touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Darrell Jackson, forcing Seattle to settle for three instead of seven. When Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lunged for the goal line near the end of the first half, replays indicated a close play but a clear stop by the Seahawks. Nope—touchdown, Steelers. Then came the pivotal double shot that ended all hope for Seattle. With the Seahawks trailing 14-10, a phantom holding call negated a completion that would have given Seattle first and goal at the one yard line. Three plays later, Hasselbeck was picked off by Ike Taylor, a mistake he partially made up for by tackling the Steelers CB. Sadly for Seattle, tackling now brings a 15-yard penalty—the zebras somehow called Hasselbeck for a "block below the waist." The last call set up Pittsburgh for the clinching score.

Even John Madden, as reliable an apologist for the NFL as there is, started questioning the calls. The videogame pitchman sounded especially miffed after the phantom hold/illegal tackle sequence. He wasn't quite as persistently loud and angry as Billy Packer in the 2001 NCAA basketball finals, sounding off on a series of laughably pro-Duke calls. But this was eye-opening stuff coming from the usually see-no-evil Madden.

 

 

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