January 27, 2009

XL: What we really think

1. There was NOT some huge conspiracy to fix the game

A lot of people cling to conspiracy theories in part because they don't want to believe a lone gunman could take down the President, or that a small group of criminals with box cutters and some flight training could murder over 3000 Americans. It's on some level psychologically comforting to think there are larger forces at work, but these conspiracy theories almost never stand up to rational scrutiny.

In the case of XL, I can understand why some Seattle fans thought the fix was in, but there was no vast conspiracy. However, officials are human; they can be swayed by environmental factors and simply not be up to the task at a crucial moment. They were in an environment where everyone was told for two weeks how Pittsburgh was supposed to win, and how great it would be if Jerome Bettis retired with a ring, and this is capped by a Ford Field festooned with terrible towel waving fans. Officials can be intimidated by crowds.. They can be overwhelmed by their surroundings. They can CHOKE. These officials did just that.

2. The horrible officiating didn't just cost us a chance to win the game, it cost all NFL fans an legitimate Super Bowl experience.

Steelers fans love to point out that Seattle didn't play a perfect game. Yeah, we know that. Neither did Pittsburgh. It was a sloppy, ugly game... and that made the tilt of the officiating towards the Steelers absolutely pivotal. In a game where Seattle was imperfect but still won the turnover battle, accumulated more yards of offense, and held onto the ball longer, the officials denied us a CHANCE to win the game.

Plus, it wasn't just Seattle fans who thought XL was a travesty... Steelers fan conveniently forget the NATIONAL outrage in the wake of XL directed at Leavy and his gang of incompetent boobs. Fuck, even Steve Nash had our backs.

3. We're still almost as pissed at Detroit as we are at Pittsburgh.

As John McGrath wrote back in 2006:

Steelers towels were on sale at every souvenir stand in the stadium, Holmgren said, noting that blue-and-green Seahawks towels were not available. That, he said, seems pretty unfair. More than Terrible Towels were at work. Amid the buildup to Super Bowl XL, mayor Kwame Kilpatrick not only presented Bettis with a symbolic key to the city, he told the running back how he wished for him to bring the Vince Lombardi trophy to Detroit.

This is backed up by a number of eyewitness accounts from Seahawks fans...

I was at the game, and the stadium employees were walking up and down the aisles with boxes full of Terrible Towels, handing them out to everyone. There were ZERO Seahawk towels or anything with the Hawk logo handed out. My buddy almost punched the poor kid who asked him if he wanted a towel (i guess he didn't care we were all decked out in Hawk gear). Rumor has it, there were boxes of green Seahawk towels that were somehow "lost" but mirculously the boxes were found somewhere in ford Field after the game. By the way, even though we Hawk fans were heavily outnumbered, there was more passion and noise coming from us than any of those yellow towel-waving "fans" of the other team (I refuse to say the name). I have been to three Super Bowls including XL, and it was far and away the most obvious one-sided push for one team in a "neutral-site" game I have ever seen.

In addition to this was the incident in the build-up to the game where a Detroit Lions executive stated that "we are very happy to welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers." When reminded that they had an opponent in the game, he replied "we are not as happy to welcome the Seattle Seahawks."

The environment that was created before the game treated the Seahawks like the Washington Generals, going up against the grinning Bettis and the Harlem Globetrotters. The officials certainly played along with the feel-good script during XL, failing to call a single penalty on Pittsburgh in the final 35 minutes of play.

Fuck Detroit. I savor their 0-16 collapse.

4. "You will never understand/How it feels to live your life/With no meaning or control."

Steelers fans will NEVER understand how we feel, because they've CONSISTENTLY gotten a helping hand from the officials in big games since the highly dubious "Immaculate Reception" in 1972. They simply don't know what it's like to have a big game taken from them by the officials.

Plus, they don't know the Seahawks' sordid history of being on the wrong side of horrible calls OVER and OVER again.

5. For the record, these are the calls that haunt us...

A) Sean Locklear gets called for holding on a play that would have given Seattle a first and goal at the Steelers’ 1, down 14-10 with 12 minutes left in the game. Replays showed little evidence of Locklear committing a foul (also, Haggans was clearly offside). Two plays later, Beck threw a game-changing interception.

B) After that interception, Matt got called for a low block TRYING TO MAKE A TACKLE!!!! An inexplicable call, which led to Pittsburgh’s final TD.

C) First quarter: Darrell Jackson catches a touchdown pass from Hass. Replays show that the closest official makes no move to throw his flag UNTIL the Pittsburgh DB started furiously complaining. Oh, a Steeler complained? I must throw my yellow hankie! Replays also show that this was at best incidental contact, NOT offensive pass interference. Also, the official in question was later revealed to be FROM Pittsburgh.

D) Roethisberger was clearly stopped at the one-inch line on a touchdown that made the score 7-3 Pittsburgh in the 2nd quarter. Replays show that the line judge started running in with one hand up as if to spot the ball, but then CHANGED HIS MIND and raised both hands to indicate a touchdown. This was not overturned by instant replay.

The officials were at best inconsistent, throwing ticky-tack nit-picky flags against Seattle while letting the same minor infractions by Pittsburgh slide.

Alright, it's out of my system... for now at least.


CatEatingAlien said...

even bill simmons agrees. on todays podcast he said he thought the refs were the MVP for XL

Mind of no mind said...

Within 20 minutes of reading this, I started listening to Bill Simmons espn Podcast. As he and Cousin Sal are going over the vegas betting lines, they're talking about the odds on who will win the MVP award this year. Sal asked bill who won when Steelers beat seattle, and Bill said "I think the referee's won that."

I love that guy!

He also had on Aaron Schatz the creator of Football Outsiders who made an interesting point. He said that if the steelers beat Arizona, "it'll be like them giving the ultimate middle finger to the NFC West" because they'll pass SF by winning 6 superbowls, and they'll have done it by beating three straight NFC West teams; Rams in 79 then the Hawks and Arizona.

Just one more reason to force myself to root for the Cards.

Fashion Ethic said...

I was in Detroit that day and sat row 6...those towels were being handed out by KODAK employees in the stadium. I asked one girl where the Seahawk towels were and she LAUGHED at me. I haven't purchased Kodak products since that day.

Before halftime even came, Steeler fans gave up on their team. The guy next to me filled his camera with shots of our SeaGals (Pitt doesn't have cheerleaders at all) and I can also say that we Hawk fans earned the respect of Steeler fans....

True story - when my dad and I got to our seats I got the once over and look of CONTEMPT from two older Steeler ladies in our row, to which I asked them "are we going to have a problem, ladies?" (me being a 29-year old true blue decorated fan and a little tipsy already). By the end of the game, they were hugging me and said we were great fans and had a great team. And they weren't the only ones.

So did it suck to be there that night? Not as much as it does when I watch NFL Films recap that SB. That is physically painful to me. Thus, I totally understand the need to rant about it.

And now it's out of MY system. For a little bit. ;)

Balin said...

People keep asking when I'm going to "get over it," too. I tell them: "When the NFL moves the Lombardi Trophy to Seattle."

This is a great post, and mirrors exactly what I've been feeling / saying for almost 4 years now: There was no conspiracy, but the NFL PICKED SIDES in this game - you forgot to mention the touching black & white TV commercials, each one showing a player or coach holding the Superbowl trophy and talking about what it would mean to win it. SIX STEELERS and TWO Seahawks were shown, the first four of which were Steelers.

Bill Leavy's crew only obliged what was OBVIOUSLY the desired outcome by all. Leavy should not be allowed to officiate in the NFL.

And as you said: I don't hate the Steelers as much as I hate the officiating crew ... and the Steelers fans who have subsequently FORGOTTEN how they "won" that game.

My best friend at work is a DIE HARD Steelers fan (and we all know what entitled crybabies they are), and even he said after the game, "I don't feel good about this one at all. It feels dirty."

They ALL felt that way on Feb 7, 2006. Now they celebrate their six rings and tell us to get over it. Funny story: My table at our College Station, TX sports bar is all Seahawks fans, and we won a free party for 10 (free food & drinks, etc). The Steelers fans behind us asked if they were invited to join in. I said, "Not a chance we're sharing our food with Steelers fans. You already have our Lombardi Trophy. When will it be enough!?" LMAO.