Official conundrum: How do you cover questionable officiating?
Golden Tate scored a touchdown.
Well, actually, he scored two of them, but there's only one that people are going to be talking about Tuesday, and that's the 24-yard reception on the final play of the fourth quarter.
And he did score it yet stating that simple fact spurred e-mails questioning everything from my objectivity to my ethics in reporting to -- my personal favorite -- someone whose e-mail identified himself as being from Switzer Candy Company stating I should resign.
Writing about officiating is one of the things I've found most difficult as a sports reporter. No one ever leaves a game thinking the officiating was good, but seldom is a the officiating so singularly bad that it becomes the dominant theme of the game.
And in the press box, it's not always evident when that threshold is reached in which the officiating is so questionable that it becomes the lens through which the result is viewed.
That happened in Super Bowl XL, but I didn't realize it until late that night after the game. Oh, I knew there were some questionable calls, and that a series of what appeared to be questionable penalties had gone against the Seahawks, but when the players and coach Mike Holmgren by and large passed on making an issue of the officiating, I failed to realize that it was going to become the enduring discussion and memory of that game.
Monday night was different. About the time the officials couldn't tell whether or not the extra point needed to be kicked, it was clear the officiating was going to be the major conversation about this game.
Not only were the Packers assessed two dubious (and critical) penalties that sustained Seattle's second-to-last possession, but then the officials awarded Seattle a touchdown on the final play of the game, ruling that Tate had simultaneous possession of the ball with M.D. Jennings.
"It was awful," Aaron Rodgers said of the call.
It's hard to watch the replay of the play and not come away believing that Jennings, the Packers cornerback, possessed the ball first. He had both hands on it, he pulled it to his chest, and while Tate's arm may have been in there, in watching the replay multiple times, I couldn't see any definitive evidence he gained possession of the ball at the same time Jennings did.
But where do we proceed from there? We're going to find out because this subject is going to keep being talked about, but is any of that discussion going to change the outcome of that play or result of the game.
There's also a counterpoint, too. One that I think Robert Mitchell expressed better than anyone I've seen:
"In this controversy, perhaps someone could point out that Vinny Testeverde scored a TD with his helmet -- in a game with playoff implications, I believe, or that in a Super Bowl the officiating was so bad that the official apologized to the Seahawks, much later. This was not a Super Bowl, but if an asterisk is to be attached to this game, one should be attached to each of those games.
-- Robert Mitchell
Bad calls happen even without an officiating lockout.