I’m not one who generally complains about the officiating of sporting events. Referees and officials have a tough job and they take a lot of grief. I’ve seen poorly officiated games both in favor and in opposition of teams I’m supporting. However, this year’s Super Bowl is the second most poorly officiated game I’ve ever seen.

It makes me angry.

Let’s enumerate the grossest absurdities:

#1 At the end of the first quarter, a Matt Hasselbeck touchdown pass to Darrell Jackson was called back due to pass interference. Was there pass interference? Technically yes, but it’s not anything that would ever be called under any other circumstance. The Seahawks settled for a field goal. (Though admittedly, they still had first-and-twenty after the call, so they had plenty of chances.)

#2 At the end of the second quarter, Ben Roethlisberger scored a touchdown on a third-down run. Or did he?

Roethlisberger fell to the ground with football at his side, the ball behind the plane of the goal. Only after he was on the ground did the quarterback whip the ball forward into the end zone. The official made a delayed call: touchdown. The play was subject to automatic review and was left to stand because the replay was “inconclusive”. You know what? If it had been called the other way (no touchdown), the replay would have backed the call, too. Why? Because there was no touchdown! The Steelers ought to have been held to a field goal and the halftime score should have been 7-3 in favor of the Seahawks. (And yes, the Seahawks could have helped the situation by tackling Roethlisberger a foot or a yard back.)

#3 A few minutes into the fourth quarter, Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception. On the return, he was forced to make a woeful quarterback-esque tackle of the defender. Again the official made a delayed call: Hasselbeck was guilty of blocking below the waist. What the…? This one makes no sense at all. The Steelers were given a bonus fifteen yards, fifteen yards that led to a Pittsburgh touchdown. (On a beautiful play, the prettiest play of the game.)

There were several other questionable calls that went against the Seahawks, and the Steelers were given free passes on a few others. I’m not saying that the Seahawks would have won the game, or that they played well (they did for most of the first half, but not so much in the second), but the Steelers’ lead should have only been 17-14 at the end of the game, and the Seahawks should have been playing for the tying field-goal, not trying to accomplish some sort of miracle comeback.

(I’m not the only one who thinks this Super Bowl was poorly officiated.)

For the record: the worst officiated game I’ve ever seen was the 1995 NFC Championship game between Dallas and Green Bay (actually played in 1996). That one was mind-boggling. Over and over and over calls went for Dallas and against Green Bay. Michael Irvin might be throwing a defender to the ground but the penalty would go against the Packers. Green Bay did its best, but ultimately lost 38-27. To this day I complain bitterly to Sabino (a Cowboys fan, and at my side as we watched) about that game.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it sometimes seems to me that officials (in all sports) have been given a mandate from their leagues: “Let this team win. It makes a better story.” For example, in the 1995 NFC Championship, I wonder if the officials were not told: “Let the Cowboys win. We want a Dallas-Pittsburgh Super Bowl that hearkens back to the olden days.”

Just wait ’til next year!

8 Replies to “Super Bummed”

  1. michaelsean says:

    Many good points here. I am actually a Cowboys fan first, Seahawks second. I too think the NFC Championship games was horribly officiated, and I am a Cowboys fan!

    I just hate to see any major sporting event be decided by the officials (or at least heavily influenced by).

  2. Ed says:

    I agree with you on almost all of this. Another bad call on the Seahawks which affected the outcome of the game was in the third qtr when Seattle completed a pass to the Steelers one yd line. The call was holding but the reply didn’t show and holding and even John Madden said after the replay he didn’t see any holding. That play would have put the Seahawks in a position (at the 1 yd line) to go up 17 to 14 and the Steelers would have been coming back. Then there would have been no interception with another bad call on the tackle.

    I wonder if the league will issue an apology for the mistakes.??

  3. Blogeois says:

    I had a feeling things would probably go bad when Detroit was chosen as the game site. Neutral territory? I don’t think so…

  4. While I agree that the game was poorly officiated, I disagree about the Roethlisburger touchdown. From the side-view replays, the ball came awfully close – much less than an inch – to crossing the goal line, and to my eye might have even crossed it. (All the ball has to do is reach the edge of the paint of the goal line.) And that was before Roethlisburger pushed it forward when he was down. I could easily see the sideline judge going either way in calling it a touchdown, and the replay was not going to be conclusive to overturn whatever he called.

    I think if this had been the only questionable call, then in isolation I have no problem with the call. Some things are simply too close to call, and I felt the officials did a good job in this case.

    The Jackson touchdown was the really egregious call. Even my Steeler-boosting friend thought it was a bad call.

  5. john says:

    On number one, that call would (should) happen every time in the circumstances in which it occurred. You’ll see guys do it all game and get away with it. But you can’t do it in the end zone, right in front of the ref. He has to make that call.
    Totally agree with everything else though. Officiating killed any kind of momentum that Seattle tried to get going in that game. I think the Seahawks had terrible clock management though at the end of the second quarter and at the end of the game. They could have helped their cause greatly by being a little more conscious of the clock.

  6. tim says:

    I think John was hitting on part of the problem in his comment above. The officials are seldom consistent with calls, even when they’re taking place right in front of them.

    Without question, the worst of those is the pass interference call. If those were made on a consistent basis, when they were actually supposed to be enacted, fans (and players) would have a much easier time digesting the penalties.

  7. john says:

    I think the officials usually do an ok job. Not saying that I thought the officiating in that game was great. The Seahawks got screwed a couple of times. What made it bad, was that it was during the worst possible times of their drives.

    You notice you don’t hear too many actual referees complaining. That’s because they know that those guys did ok. Not great. But ok.

    I don’t think you can call everything all the time. Pass interference being one of the worst of the bunch. Like that call in the end zone of the Super Bowl. It’s really a ticky-tack penalty. But it is a penalty. In the end zone, with most of the country watching, you have to call it. But while a team is driving down the field, you might not call it because it was so minor. Sure you could call it. But if you called it all game then you would be “the bastard ref that didn’t let the players play”. Conversely, you don’t call it in the end zone and you have people in Pittsburg burning down their city because “the bastard ref didn’t call that pass interference call that gave the receiver the separation to catch the ball”. (No offense to the people of Pittsburg).

    It’s been my experience refereeing (not Super Bowls mind you) that someone will always think you are a bastard….no matter how you call the game.

  8. Eric says:

    The least you could do is give the bad calls against both teams. Roethlisberger got crushed in the back on th INT return, Palumalu got set by a pick on the only Seattle TD (you Madden groupies should note that he used the word, but wouldn’t complain about it since he has yet to get over the Immaculate Reception), Stevens fumbled, but it was ruled incomplete, & JOHN – Pittsburgh is spelled with the “H” at the end. Kind of stupid to miss that with all the glory days of the Steelers (5 Super Bowl victories) & the 2 week media hype leading up to the Super Bowl. Would you go for Seatle? Blogeois, Detroit was chosen before the Steelers made it, just like the holding penalty was called before the pass was completed. I think all of you need to look at the Photo at the beginning of this blog. It shows Big Ben’s arm right in front of the goal line, the ball at an angle. It’s across even before he moved it, & he was more forward in the air before coming down. Cease the whining!

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