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Monday, January 16, 2006

The Atmospheric Officials' Good Will Factor

Most negotiators will tell you that when you've won a point, stop talking and quickly move onto the next one. Don't wax eloquent about why your winnning that point was necessary, don't lecture why you were right, don't thank the other side. Just shut up and move on.

And don't give the other side any ideas about changing its mind.

Sounds simple, right?

Then there are the Pittsburgh Steelers and LB Joey Porter, in particular.

In case you're one of the people who had a power failure on the East Coast or missed the games to watch either figure skating on the 42,229th replay of "The Battle of the Bulge," the referee working the Indianpolis-Pittsburgh game made a hellacious reversal of an on-field interception ruling that would essentially have iced the game for Pittsburgh with about 5 minutes to go, a 21-10 lead and the ball in Colts' territory. In something that only could be explained to theoretical physicists, he ruled that Troy Pohlamau didn't have control over the ball and therefore what all thought was an INT was actually an incomplete pass. That decision gave the Colts the ball back and, well, give Peyton Manning a second chance like that and he turned it into a touchdown and a pretty amazing two-point conversion.

21-18, Steelers, plenty of time left, and, well, you know the rest of the story.

If you stop it right there, there would be no issue. Sure, some Steelers' players would have said the referee's decision was unfortunate, but that they won the game anyway, so who cared. Clearly, had the Steelers' lost, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R, PA), one who never misses an opportunity in front of the cameras, would have launched a full, frontal Congressional assault (err, inquiry) into what happened on the play. The pundits, who were pretty tough on the refs this morning anyway, would have had a field day. Farm animals would have been subpoenaed to determine if they ever had been photographed with members of the officiating crew. H.J. Heinz & Co. would have declared an embargo on all products going into Indiana. There would have been calls for full-time officials, for a Judge Landis equivalent to rule on disputes among referees calls. Lots of funky stuff.

But the Steelers won. And Joey Porter had to say this.

Had Joey Porter not said anything, I'd submit that in the collective psyche of NFL officiating crews everywhere, the Steelers would be worthy of some break somewhere. Not, of course, that they'd ever get it, or that they should get it, but the Steelers themselves were good sports, didn't make too much a deal out of it, even where they did get shafted on a call at a key time in a crucial game and almost lost because of it. That thought would circulate in the atmosphere and, because referees are human, it might do some good for the Steelers this coming weekend.

The Steelers took it like men and didn't embarrass us. Or so the thought would be.

But because referees are human, they now have heard the roar of a tough cuss of a linebacker who basically has called out the brotherhood of officials by suggesting that they wanted Indy to win. No doubt that Commisioner Tagliabue's office will lighten Porter's wallet up a bit, but, more importantly, the officials could, event though they're not supposed to, remember that too. And my guess is, because they're human, their being called out will eclipse their memory of one of their membership's bad call. Which means that were the Steelers to need the right spot under the right circumstances with the wrong official, they might not get it.

That's not to say, of course, that any official would act other than according to the highest standards of professional conduct. But in the event that certain of them are human (the way MLB and NBA refs have proven to be), the ball, or, actually, the call, just might not go the Steelers' way.

Which means that instead of having an intangible on their side, the Steelers don't, precisely because one of their vocal leaders drew a line in the sand.

Joey Porter's right: it was a terrible call.

He didn't need to say anything more than that.


Blogger Lou said...

I definitely agree with you. Anyone watching that replay can see that it was an interception, and knows that the subsequent call was attrocicous. The final result was not affected, but still. Porter should learn the benefits of brevity, and let the media focus on the blown call instead of his comments.

3:45 PM  
Blogger kampco1 said...

For Goodness’ Sake

Every team has a Joey Porter. The Steelers are a class organization made up of 'Humans.' Joey Porter is no less human than the 'Refs' who made good calls and bad ones.

I agree. The human factor could very well come in to play in future officiating. However, there seems to be a factor going for the Steelers that outweighs even the intangible.

I was sick with the thought that an officiating decision may influence the outcome of the Colts, Steelers game. I began trying to tell myself, "It’s just a game. There are much more important things in life than football. Why are you getting so upset?" Then I began thinking about my 16 year old son. I remember how important the 70's Steelers were to me when I was his age. How is he going to deal with this if the Steelers loose with such a huge questionable factor in the game?

I had no choice but to sit there and wait for the outcome. I sat quiet, hoping that some intangible force would rise up with righteous indignation and make an assault on such thievery.

As Manning was sacked near the Steeler goal line, I jumped up and grabbed my daughter and son for a jubilant and jumping group hug. He... It...whatever force I was looking for had arrived with its legions and smashed the injustice to smithereens. I went to the freezer to frost my beer mug for the great celebration that had surely arrived.

And then it happened. The fabric of time itself had been torn in two. The joker of spades had trumped even the fountain of goodness itself that bore the Lone Ranger, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey victory, and the defeat of Hitler. I turned away from the scrambling Colts as they raced down field totally unobstructed for the obvious and most sinister beheading since John the Baptist, so I thought.

But my head was turned back by some unknown hope. My eyes caught the most unexpected colors of Black and Gold. Hope had flared up like a phoenix. What were the odds that this “Lone Ranger” in black and gold could somehow stop the guillotine from falling, and where did he come from?

There was something happening that was beyond what meets the eye. Goodness had called up the warriors of wing to fight a thousand jokers that had surrounded thirty-six for a lifetime of undeserving shame and humiliation. And as the battle between right and wrong entered the last few blows of the final round, Right threw in final blow, as the kick sailed wide right.

For Goodness’ Sake.

4:01 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your comments, guys.

It was an awful play, and thankfully the NFL admitted it. They do have a quality control issue with their product, but it's hard to predict how to solve it.

For Goodness' Sake, yes, a loss would have been very hard to take. I'm not sure I'd paint the significance of the game as dramatically so you do, and the good thing about humans is that they can heal from massive disappointment. It wouldn't have been fair, true, but thankfully the unfairness was in the context of a football game and not something that is a more fundamental part of your life, even if you're a Steelers' fan, which, in and of itself, is a way of life.

1:32 PM  
Blogger BCSportsFanatic said...

Would the League have issued their statement that the refs messed up had Indy won the game?? I think not.

The real issue they need to investigate was whether the fix was on. I mean, the calls were so one-sided it almost begs an extra look. We all know how much money is on the line on these NFL games. If it's happening in College sports, is it that much of a stretch to think it's happening in the Pros??

2:01 AM  
Blogger kampco1 said...

Yes, I confess to the dramatics. But what a shame it would have been to miss such a performance of near perfect execution by the Steelers against the Broncos.

This story of a 'kid' quarterback promising to get his beloved veteran to the Superbowl may not be the stuff dreams are made of, but if this thing unfolds like I think it's going to, it might make for a good movie.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Buy Cialis said...

I was really hoping that The Saints made it to the Super Bowl this season, the played a hell of a season.

2:54 PM  

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