48-hours ago I did not think there would be any need for me to type this. I was wrong. Dead wrong.
What happened 2-nights ago in Tampa at the Super Bowl was a travesty. Yes, it was a great game. Yes, Big Ben had a drive for the ages capping with a touchdown that will be replayed over and over and over again for years to come. The Pittsburgh Steelers are deserving of the Super Bowl that they won. That can't be taken away from them. But the Arizona Cardinals were deserving of a chance at the end. And they were denied that. Not by the Steelers, but by Terry McAulay and the rest of the officiating crew at Super Bowl XLIII.
Now had the last 40 seconds of the game been officiated properly, there's no telling what would have happened. Would the Cardinals have been able to punch it in the endzone in the last 5 seconds, no one knows. But what we really should have seen will surprise you. And that will be pointed out here.
You can debate calls all throughout the game. There were debatable calls on both sides. You can argue that the refs were against the Cardinals all game, as evidenced by the fact that the Cardinals had to use both of their challenges and they won them both. I'm not going to argue that. This is not Tim Donaghy big. But this is big.
It started on the Santonio Holmes touchdown catch. It was a great play and a clean play. However, it was after the play that we have some controversy. Actually, there is no controversy. After the touchdown, Santonio Holmes treated the ball as a prop by using it almost as a salt-and-pepper shaker (the motions mimicked that in a way) and then threw the ball up in the air while spreading his arms out, clearly mimicking LeBron James. And there was no penalty! This was something that was clear as day and yet, the refs clearly missed that call. That's 15-yards! This is the Super Bowl and while you can use the argument that it's the Super Bowl and he should be allowed to do what he wants after catching one of the greatest touchdowns of all time, the fact remains it's still a penalty. And a clear penalty in a game that was littered with ticky-tacky calls. No one's going to say anything if you call that 15-yards, it was clear as day. And yet, it went ignored and uncalled. 15-yards. Remember that.
Now we get to the Warner fumble. I have seen that play over and over and over again from every possible angle and I have come to one conclusion. Warner's arm was going forward. Based on the sheer physics of the play, there's no other possible explanation. We'll get to back the the physics later, but first let's disect the video. Here's a great close-up.
What happened when he threw is he put his arm back, put it back even more to heave it down the field, moved his arm forward, got hit as he was doing so and the ball came out. And if the video does not prove it (which I think he does) then let's talk science. There is no way this is not an incomplete pass. By the sheer physics of it. The ball ends up 4-yards down the field. How is that possible? Especially seeing as Lamaar Woodley came from Warner's side! He was not popped from behind. We've seen empty hands before. A good sign of an empty hand fumble is the ball popping up in the air because the only momentum is the defender hitting him and the QB going down. How does the ball end up 4-yards down the field if Warner is hit from the side with his arm all the way back? The only possible explanation is that he must have had possession of the ball while moving his arm/shoulder forward. How else does the ball get all that forward momentum? It certainly would not have been provided by Woodley who hit him from the side. Momentum cannot be created or destroyed and Raymond James Stadium is not a place where the laws of physics are destroyed. And not only did it end up 4-yards down the field, but it ends up 4-yards down the field on a line, not popped up in the air. If it were popped up in the air, that would lend credence to the empty hand, but the fact that the ball was 4-yards down the field on an albeit somewhat wobbly line proves even more that the pass was incomplete and the arm was going forward. There's no other scientifically plausible explanation. And if there is, I'd like to see it.
And what's an even bigger crime here is that this play WAS NOT EVEN REVIEWED! It is impossible in one-minute of looking at the play to make a judgment on it. You think that I spent only a minute or two looking at it? NO! I must have seen the play now 50-100 times. I've studied it. And while you certainly can't completely disect the film in 3-minutes for a booth review, you can definitley look at it, apply high school physics, and make a judgment that the arm must have been going forward. And even if McAulay and his crew don't remember anything about physics. Isn't that play close enough just by looking at it to warrant that it needs to be looked at for more than a minute.
And we're not done here. There was another 15-yard excessive celebration penalty on the Steelers. That would have been tacked on. Remember the 15-yard excessive celebration penalty after the Holmes touchdown? Assuming everything stayed the same, and the pass was rightly overturned, the Arizona Cardinals should have had the ball at the 19-yard line with 5 seconds to go. Now whether or not the Cardinals would have converted is anyone's guess, but there chances were very good with Larry Fitzgerald on their team.
The fact that this game came down to this though, is unforgiveable. I'm not here to come up with a crazy conspiracy that the refs were employed by the Steelers or something, but the circumstances certainly are dubious around the whole thing. Terry McAulay was the only referee to have a major controversy in the playoffs and he is the referee for the Super Bowl, having been named days after the Delay of Game controversy in Nashville. And here we are in the Super Bowl, with one of the most controversial finishes in Super Bowl history.
Again, I say, I'm not glad that I'm talking about this. I have no problem with Pittsburgh winning. But thanks to McAulay and the officiating crew, there will always be a cloud of "what if" surrounding the game? Does Warner connect with Fitzgerald for the game-winning TD? Does Polamalu pick it off and seal the deal? Is the pass caught at the 1 by Boldin and tackled immediately, leaving him and the Cardinals inches short of a touchdown? It was a great game, a historic drive by Big Ben ending with what may very well be considered the greatest touchdown in Super Bowl history. However, the cloud of controversy will forever lurk over this game. And that, my friends, is a damn shame.