February 06, 2006

Super Bowl!

Steelers are champions!

The officiating was unfortunate, though complaints will be accepted only about certain calls (Roethlisberger got the ball across the plane of the goal line, Jackson pushed off in the end zone, and the idea that the plays should be invalidated because the officials didn't call them immediately is silly). You folks who are trying to kill my buzz with silly complaints, you know who you are.

Posted by Matt Weiner at February 6, 2006 12:25 PM

Well congratulations, but the calls were worse than you are letting on. Perhaps the review of Roethlisberger's touchdown did not have enough to overturn the call, but if there was an equal playing field it looked more like not. I agree that a late call is not a reason to question it, but a call where the ref is spotting the ball and then mid-run changes to a touchdown sign is.
The 'push off' in the endzone by Jackson *was* a joke. There's no way that gets called 90% of the time which means it certainly should not be called in the super bowl where the benefit of the doubt should always go to the no call. There is also the matter of the phantom hold that cost the Seahawks big.
I missed some of the post game coverege. Did Holmgren not go and shake hands with Cowher?

Posted by: Jon M. at February 6, 2006 03:32 PM

What part of "complaints will be accepted only about certain calls" didn't you understand? I'm really tired of arguing this with people. Read this and the comments.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at February 6, 2006 09:37 PM

I'll respond to both you and Jon M. at the same time. I actually didn't think the officiating was all that bad. The pass-interference was not marginal; it's a play that doesn't get called a lot because the vision of the officials is often obstructed. In this case, the receiver clearly put his hands on the DB and used him as a springboard for a cut. The fact that the DB took a step backward only obviated the call. As for the back judge, from the endzone replay you clearly see him immediately reach for his flag. I don't know what took him so long to get it out, but my guess is he was just having issues getting it out. Jon M., just because it goes unseen 90% of the time doesn't mean you shouldn't call it. By that reasoning, simply because I can steal candy from a store 90% of the time is a good enough reason to not get arrested for it on, say, Christmas.

The TD call was questionable, but inconclusive on replay. Officials often change the spot, but I'll agree, this was weird.

Hasselbacks drive through the blocker has been called a number of times (at least twice that I know of) this year. Simply, it's illegal to make a tackle by diving at or through the knees of the blocker.

I didn't see the holding, but holding gets called all the time (and 99% of the time correctly), and I don't see why this is any different.

I thought the play of the two quarterbacks was much more atrocious than any of the calls. Deal.

Posted by: jvance at February 7, 2006 12:21 PM

King Kaufman (Salon link) makes the case most Steelers fans would make; the PI and the hold were real plays, even if they're not always called. The real problem is that officiating is inconsistent (sort of like balls and strikes, I'd say, maybe if you had a different ump every time). There were several judgment calls that went for the Steelers, but there just wasn't any big call that was obviously wrong, IMO. (I understand that replay showed that Hasselback didn't touch the blocker, which would mean he shouldn't have been penalized, but that it was understandable that the ref thought there was a penalty. Anyway, that' not an 11-point swing.) That's why I'm annoyed by talk of the worst officiating ever; I've seen clear blunders in other games.

We'll find out more when the NFL officiating supervisor speaks up; they've admitted big mistakes in the past.

Definitely, neither team played well.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at February 7, 2006 12:42 PM

Someone on "Around the Horn," I can't remember who, pointed out (correctly) that the only reason anyone is talking about the holding penaly is because Madden said something about it. Since he was on his 13th scotch at that point, and I was only on my 7th, I think I had a better view of the play.

Seriously, there's a real tendency to let the coverage dictate what we think the "controversial" calls were. It's in the best interest of ESPN and NFL.com and all that for there to be controversy about the calls, and that's one of the reasons why they talk about the "close calls" so much. This doesn't mean, contrary to popular opinion, that there were more close calls than usual in the game.

However, Matt, you must admit this - the Hasselbeck illegal block was not bad play on Hasselbeck's part, and the Roethlesberger touchdown, along with all touchdowns where the ball just peeks across the plane, was not a fine football play. I would say that both these were cases of "technicalities" - the Seahawks were penazlized on a "technicality," and the Steelers got a touchdown on a "technicality" - I don't have a spelled out definition of this notion, but you know what I mean. Some touchdowns are determinately touchdowns, and others just make it because they manage to cross the official boundary between non-touchdowns and touchdowns. All this winning on a technicality makes me nostalgic ... the beloved tuck rule, anyone?

Posted by: Allan at February 7, 2006 02:23 PM

Yeah, agreed (except that the Hasselback illegal block was a fine tackle, but an awful throw). The Steelers were lucky to get that touchdown, but that doesn't make it illegitimate. It's the talk of illegitimacy that I object to.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at February 7, 2006 04:19 PM

Okay. Penalties in the first half? Didn't give the game to Pittsburgh. I say this because Seattle nearly had it won with the Herndon interception; if you nearly win the game, it's hard to say that the earlier penalties lost it for you. We end up in counterfactual what if world too easily. Maybe if the touchdown had been reversed, the Steelers would have got it in on a second try and Ben would have calmed down and blah blah blah....

Maybe Seattle let it get to them; I don't know what happened with their time management. No one had a good game, really.

Holmgren didn't shake hands with Cowher on the field, but ESPN said he did in the locker room; just couldn't find Bill on the field.

Posted by: Cala at February 7, 2006 05:11 PM

Cala, I respectfully disagree with the principle that if you nearly win, you can't say that some earlier factor cost you the game. The earlier penalties could, in theory, have dug a deep hole that you almost climbed out of; they still would give you right the complain. That said, the general knock on counterfactuals stands; no point in saying "If there's no holding penalty then the Seahawks get the ball at the 1 and then they totally without fail score a touchdown and then the Steelers might not have run it back blah blah blah" -- in an 11-point game, you need to come up with a lot of counterfactuals to have an argument.

And more important; a lot of those calls were not bad calls. The pass interference took place, and if you're going to not call it right in front of the ref in the end zone, you might as well just stop playing the game. The Roethlisberger touchdown -- well look. The photo is hard to read, but anyone who says that it was clearly short is jiving. So anyone who starts their complaints about the officiating with those two calls (and I don't mean you Jon, since I brought them up here; I've seen a lot of this going around) is just destroying their credibility.

I'm going to have to remind myself not to read Football Outsiders next week, when he has promised an analysis of holding calls. Pardon me while I vent about this a little,

but this is pretty much guaranteed to be worthless. Aaron Schatz runs an excellent site with a lot of useful statistical analysis, but he gets very touchy and spiteful when criticized. You can see from the header of the first link that he says he and his friends were marking down Pittsburgh holds -- in a totally calm, unbiased fashion I'm sure -- and he actually brings up conspiracy theories; then he insults all Pittsburgh fans posting on his site; then he does it again. Given how much judgment goes into holding calls, is there any reason to expect this to be anything but a score-settling exercise? I'm a lot more interested to see what the NFL's director of officiating says (though the NFL is already defending the crew; and they have admitted error before, so that's significant).

Sorry for blowing off steam, though I guess it is my site. I'm not quite sure why this gets on my nerves so much. Maybe it's because I'm far away from other Steelers fans, so I didn't get to enjoy the victory with other people (and what good is the Super Bowl if the fans can't enjoy it?), and then my main football discussion site not only ignored the (admittedly lousy) game for some sketchy complaints about officiating, the guy in charge decided to insult me. Grrr. Go Steelers!

[In re your e-mail address, I just enabled anonymous comments. No more e-mail demanded! Yay!)

Posted by: Matt Weiner at February 7, 2006 07:59 PM

Matt, there does seem to be a difference, though, between a blown call on the last-ditch play of the game (that leads to the other team scoring, or the good guys failing to score) and a blown call early on. The difference being that after the early blown call, nothing's been decided and there's still plenty of time to decide what to do.

(Plus, if 7-3 is too big a hole to get out of... well...)

I'm coming at this from the wrong sport, but in fencing, the refereeing is always awful. But if you lose 15-14, you can't really point back to the third point you lost unfairly.

Posted by: Cala at February 8, 2006 10:14 AM

n0 e-m41l-r3qu1r3d! ph34r t3h c4l4b0t!

Posted by: meinong calabot at February 8, 2006 02:34 PM

This gets into a more interesting subject: The semantics of counterfactuals. Or, when do you have to say, "If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bicycle?" (Bowdlerized version of proverb.)

I have many profound things to say about this, but I also have to type up the minutes of this meeting I'm at, and do some grading, and goof off unfocusedly for a while. So I'm just going to hit 'post'.

(BTW, my last comment was of the category "Here's something I want to vent about, and no one whatsoever wants to hear me vent about, so I'll just put it on my blog.")

Posted by: Matt Weiner at February 8, 2006 04:37 PM