There are certain phrases and schools of thought that drive me nuts as a sports fan. I will spare my readers my rant for today on a few of those and focus on just the one that perhaps bugs me the most, since it actually came into play in Sunday night’s Super Bowl.
The play came with about two minutes left, with San Francisco trailing Baltimore by a 34-29 score and the 49ers with the ball deep in Baltimore territory. Colin Kaepernick was looking for his receiver, Michael Crabtree, near the right end zone sideline. The Ravens’ Jimmy Smith was battling with Crabtree for the ball, and although it couldn’t be called defensive holding since the ball was in the air, it appeared to me that Smith interfered with Crabrtree’s ability to catch the football and could have easily been whistled for pass interference. One former NFL official agrees with me, though another disagrees.
Presuming I’m right (and I still think I am), this isn’t the first time the “let them play” line-of-thinking has prevailed in Super Bowls. Recently, I read the excellent book, Scorecasting, which talks about the famous Eli Manning-to-David Tyree pass in Super Bowl XLII. I had forgotten this, but just before releasing the ball, Manning’s forward progress had been stopped by a pair of Patriots clinging to him. The rule is in place for the ball carrier’s safety, and the play should have been blown dead. Instead, Manning launched one of the most famous passes in NFL history, which helped the Giants win the game.
Instead of chastising head official Mike Carey for not making the call, the NFL reacted favorably to their official’s momentary suspending of the rules. Carey went on talk shows and interviewed for magazines, which the NFL rarely allows its officials to do.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that Smith was guilty of a foul. Had the flag been thrown, you’d have heard an outcry of “let the guys play,” or “officials shouldn’t decide the game.” This is the biggest garbage line of thinking in all sports; why something that is not allowed the majority of the game should suddenly be allowed in crunch time is beyond me; in fact, aren’t the officials deciding the game the minute they decide not to enforce the rules? Why the idea that the no-call in a key situation is the proper procedure has crept into our way of thinking as sports fans is beyond me.
Most of my blogs focus around an opinion, or an analysis of something, or perhaps even a prediction of something to come. Today’s, though, is a crusade. I am calling on fans to stop repeating the stupid cliché’s that fans use to justify no-calls in clutch situations. After all, it’s easy for officials to continue to get things wrong and justify it when we keep patting them on the back for it.