Monday, February 02, 2009

Sports Gehenna

these are my final words on the 2008 football season. For some of you this will come as a relief...

I have a few thoughts on how last night's game fits into the anti-pantheon of worst travesties in MY singular sporting experience. I have considered many names for this Anti-Rushmore, but settled on Gehenna. These are the great HOSINGS, the Gehenna Games!

In my Gehenna of sports travesties,* last night's Super Bowl XLIII debuted in the Top 3 supplanting worthy games like Game 6 of 2002 Western Conference Finals, the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, Super Bowl XL, Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Wide Right #2 and Wide Right #1. I could go on and on with this Bottom 10, but will not.

As of now, the 3 greatest travesties are as follows...

#1 Game 6 of the 1985 World Series between the Cardinals and Royals. The infamous call by Don Denkinger cost the Cardinals the World Championship. Never has such a travesty happened in sports history. Never has 1 call so obviously cost 1 team a championship. I wore black to my high school the next day and a black armband for a week.

#2 The 1996 NCAA football National Championship (along with the 1997 Sugar Bowl). This is too complex to explain here in detail. However, in 1996 the #1 ranked UF Gators were defeated by the #2 ranked FSU Seminoles. Through a number of dominoes falling into place, the Gators were rewarded for losing to FSU and granted a rematch. That is correct, FSU beats the #1 Gators in the final game of the season and is punished for this by playing the team it beat for the National Championship. The Gators LOSE and win. There are a number of ways this could have been avoided, which I will not go into here. Needless to say, The Gators won the rematch that should not have been played, except the suits made it happen.

#3 Last night's game- Super Bowl XLIII. Never has a Super Bowl seen such obvious bias in officiating obviously effecting the final outcome of a game (yes, SB XL was even worse, but the final score was not as close). The calls were so bad that the Cardinals had to use their challenge to overrule 2 obvious blunders. The referees called horrible penalties (holding, roughing the passer, roughing the holder) against the Cardinals and missed obvious Stealers penalties (Holmes celebration in the end zone worthy of 15 yards on kick off). They even missed the first safety (luckily the Cards did it again the next play). 

If the final play of the first half and Holmes TD had been called the other way, neither would have been overturned. The video was inconclusive on both plays (yes, I think Holmes scored. No, I don't think Harrison did). But, the travesty was the final Cardinals play of the game. That was not a fumble, yet the referees chose not to look at the film... IN THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE YEAR. This is not acceptable and everyone involved should be ashamed and lose their jobs. Does this mean the Cardinals would win? Not necessarily. But, I will put even money on Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald with 1 play in the end zone (especially with the 15 yards from Holmes' penalty and the 15 yards for some Stealer taking off his helmet) 30 yards closer.

And the world should have seen it. If you do not believe me, turn over the ESPN and ESPN2, along with sports blogs like Deadspin. Everyone not in yellow and black knows this and is talking about it.

On top of this, you should have been near Raymond James stadium yesterday. The Stealers fans were nasty, pasty people... taunting Cardinals fans (when they outnumber us 50-1) with expletives and threats, taunting Street Evangelists and looking like they will assault him, andsowing general mayhem and menace. Come to think of it, they make Cowboys fans look respectful. The Stealers fans have pushed the Stealers to supplant the Cowboys in the 9th Circle of Sports Hell.

Congrats to all in my Gehenna of Sports games. Go Cards!

In my alternative universe. I refuse to acknowledge the "champions" of their respective sports leagues in these years, along with the 2002 Lakers championship and a few others.

Ok, I am done. Pitchers and Catchers report in less than 2 weeks to Spring Training. C'mon, Manny- sign with the Cards for 2 years.

*these are caused by outsiders to change the outcome of something personally good to something very bad, of no fault to the losing team and due to no special play of the winning team. These are usually perpetuated by men or women in stripes, suits or umpiring outfits. There are the bad calls, etc. Bad luck can also play a part, especially unfortunate injuries, coaching debacles and cheating, but the rule of thumb is officiating.


Michael said...

i was rooting for the cardinals, because they are the western team, not because i really cared. so i think i can offer you a more "fair and balanced" viewpoint.

they lost.

their defense didn't show up until after the first quarter. that really hurt them.

yes, the roughing call was tough, but that is the rule. if you don't want that penalty, don't run at the holder. the holder is defenseless and the rules protect them.

replay did it's job, the right calls got made. the calls were good, though they probably should have taken longer on the final fumble so that it was obvious to the world.

the painful thing is that kurt warner played an mvp game, except for one throw, and the sad reality is that that one interception is the single biggest reason they lost the game.

that and the inability of their pass rush to get to rothselsbingle on the last drive so he had time to find the open receivers.

DJ Word said...

I think is not a coincidence that you did not mention the entire last Cardinals possession, along with the non noncalled penalty on Holmes celebration and the lack of replay on the Obvious incomplete pass of Warner on the final play.

These alone tell me the Cardinals did not have the opportunity to actually lose (or win) the game.

So, I stand by this assessment. Also, every one I spoke to regarding the "roughing the holder" penalty admitted this was a stretch to say the least. Many said it was obvious he ran into the holder, which is not an automatic 1st down. Plus, many non-Cardinal fan commentators made this point.

If I felt this way alone, I would admit my bias. However, I have heard and read to many assessments from professionals that could care less who won to believe it was as simple as you state it.

Do I think they should have stopped the Stealers on the final possession? YES.

Do I think they could have knocked harrison out of bounds easily on the interception? YES.

But, do I think they lost the game because of that single play? NO. They had overcome it, but not the officiating. Sure, had that play been different... they would have overcome the officiating too.

Do I think Big Ben did what he needed to do? YES (of course an earlier drive would have stalled if not for the phantom "roughing the passer" call).

But, do I think replay did its job? Yes, but the officials missed many important calls or called EACH one of those for 1 team. I have an issue with that, especially since the same thing happened with the same team 3 years ago (I am no conspiracy theorist, but believe in bias).

But, heck I am a completely biased fan.

The funny thing is that you could say many of the same things about why the Stealers did not and should not have won the game if 1 thing had changed on 2 or 3 occasions.

I just wish America could have seen a full game... 60 minutes and not been cheated. I will always think we were cheated of a finale, even if the Stealers had won.

Actually what I forgot to mention on the post that I should have was the second worst thing about the game... JOHN MADDON. He is done. He is a joke. He is a parody. He has not been relevant in years. he is blind. He is a company man doing the bidding of the NFL, not doing his job as a commentator.

I turned on the radio for real, honest, unbiased coverage (Maddon was not biased for Stealers. He was biased for the NFL and referees. Either that or he is blind as a bat).

What do you know I have a strong disagreement with someone I usually agree with.

Thanks for getting me fired up right before I drive home in traffic and rain.


RDF said...


I'm not going to argue calls.

Not having rewatched the game, what happened to the Cards pass rush on the last drive? They were dominating the line for most of the 3rd and 4th quarters. That was the opening they gave Pittsburgh. I figured it was the Cards game until I saw their rush let up.

As for Madden, he is unbelievable. What a suck up!

Santonio Holmes great choice for MVP (sarcasm). What an obnoxious pita! Yeah, the endzone celebration was stupid and annoying. Did you notice 2 plays earlier after his long gain? Ben was tyring to rush down to get a play off to save the TO. Holmes was strutting around the end zone celebrating his catch and run. TO gone. Grow up scum bag! I'm still naucious that Holmes is MVP. (Great quotes by him. Maybe he'll start to refer to himself in the 3rd person.) Trade him while his stock is hot.

I have mixed emotions after that Super bowl. The Steelers have forgotten where they came from as have their fans. They were the perenial losers until Chuck Noll. He didn't tolerate the showboating. I like Tomlin, but he's got some serious primadonas to deal with.

I hope the Cards continue this type of play. Unfortunately, I'm afraid Warner will be history soon.

Thanks for the entertaining posts!



RDF said...

Oh, yeah. If the Steeler fans bugged you, the Eagle fans would have put you over the edge. Uh, further over the edge...

g13 said...

i can't believe you linked the call. i don't ever want to see that again. ever.

Michael said...

I salute your passion for the Cardinals. I even salute the fact that it is making you slightly insane. That is part of the fun. I wish a team I cared about was in a position for me to get worked up like that.

Staring at the rules, it does seem like the holder is LESS protected than the kicker, however there are two levels of roughing, a straight roughing and an unnecessary roughness, at the judgment of the ref. It is reasonable, but but also reasonably arguable that it was roughing but not un necessary roughness. It is unreasonable to say that there is no basis for a penalty. That was a very callable penalty. If it hadn't been called the Steeler fans would have a much better case for argument.

Agree on Madden. I think he's tired of being John Madden too. What we need is someone as good as Madden was to step up.

What I saw on the fumble/incomplete pass was that the ball had forward momentum. This suggested to me that it was thrown and not dropped. What I would have liked to see is at least as many replays as the tiptoe TD, which was clearly as TD even after the first replay. I was disappointed that I didn't get a chance to see that play from an angle where I could say for myself, for sure, what I thought that call should be.

Either there was no angle that justified overturning the call on the field, or there was a conspiracy to get the Steelers a title, or the people in the booth made a mistake.

I'm guessing the first, you can pick the second any time you want, just for the sake of a good argument over a beer, but I'll never take that seriously. I've been around the block too many times to ever totally discount the third choice.

So, there is a possibility it was a pass, I will agree with that.

However, even if it was a pass, they were still a ways out with not much time. What they were denied was not a win, but a chance to win. If we split the universe up into 1000 copies and let them run 2 more plays, they lose the game in MANY, arguably MOST of those 1000 copies. I'm mostly disappointed about the call mainly because it would have been so improbable to drive 80 yards in 38 seconds (or whatever it was).

The bad decision which lost them the game was not the decision to call that play a fumble, it was the decision to throw a hurried pass when they had the downs to burn and wait for a better opening.

Hope I don't spoil another drive home :)

DJ Word said...

Gentry- sorry, but it had to be mentioned so people could understand what is worse that Sunday.

Ron- I agree on Holmes. He is already in TO universe of jerks. I hope he fails miserably. I watched Big Ben on ESPN after the game. Dagnapit. That guy is so likable and humble and goofy and straight shooting. He made fun of the final drive he orchestrated. Very cool, indeed. He actually thought the TD was an interception. He thought he had screwed up. He is Homes opposite. For that alone he should have been MVP.

To Mr. Toy and all else- I watched a bit of the game replay yesterday. I noticed something. THERE WAS A FREAKING "BLOCK IN THE BACK" on Harrison's interception and TD. It would have resulted in a tackle. You must see it again. It is obvious. That means no TD. Everything else becomes moot.

If you don't believe me, note Bill Simmons of ESPN. He had money on the Stealers and wanted them to cover. He noticed the clip (as he called it). He is unbiased. I was redeemed when he mentioned it. it was not merely my Cardinal glasses.

He also notes that harrison probably did not score and the ending was a fiasco and should go down as one of the worst endings perpetrated by officials ever.

I totally agree that the game was not stolen on the last play (it was stolen much earlier). But, I cannot believe the officials did not give it a look. The world had the greatest ending in SB history stolen. Think of it. Kurt Warner on the 29 (or closer) with Fitzgerald, Breston and Boldin in the end zone.... Fitzgerlad and Polumalu jumping at the same time. We could have either the next Jerry Rice winning the SB with no time on the clock or the next Ronnie Lott knocking the ball away or intercepting. And it was stolen. One for the ages, one that we talk about to our grandkids became one of the better Super Bowls, but not transcendent.

BTW, I would take the odds on Warner to Fitzgerald. It may be less than 50%, but there are no higher odds for such a play between 2 players since your 49ers were in their prime (Fitz is the best thing since Rice).

Also, I agree on many of the Caridnals mistakes that drive and the evening. But, they could have been overcome if officials had done their jobs to the level of a Super Bowl.

Damn them all for that.

No conspiracy, just a little bias and blindness because they got caught up in the excitement of a couple of great plays (Holmes TD, the supposed fumbles and the TAINT).

Here is the Simmons diary of the game (always worth reading)-