Tuesday, September 25, 2012

About the Packers game

Keep in mind, this started with a Russell Wilson throw. The guy had just ran back about 15 yards, like how I used to play Madden when I was 11, and threw it 55 yards because that was his only chance to win.

Now while the ball is in the air, Seattle's odds of winning are pretty low — in fact, let's not go there. Because odds mattered so little in this game all along. Odds the Packers offense would get shut out and allow eight sacks in the first half, odds Cedric Benson would be the key to a comeback, odds we'd be facing a classic Hail Mary to end it all, odds we'd end on the conclusion we did. If you were to look at them, you'd be wasting your time, this all has to be examined qualitatively.

My examinations? It'll never happen again. Thus, it is historic.

Since it's a new season, and the Seahawks have attractive Nike threads, a trendy quarterback whom Bill Simmons crowned as the most important player this season, and the Packers are coming off a gazillion-1 year, this game had mass appeal. Everyone was watching. This wasn't Seahawks-Cardinals, this was Monday Night Football.

People will look at this game and see the conclusion, mostly for the fallout it induced. But what's missing is the amazing "rising action" to borrow some literary words that are often paired together.

But eventually the ball does land, and it's a toss up. I'm on the phone with my brother, and I'm in my friends' apartment which is currently a please-don't-yell zone, and I don't yell, because I'm trying to process what the hell is happening, and the thought in my head is "tie goes to the runner."

Seattle is the runner for multiple reasons. They're the underdog, they're the offensive team, and they're the home team. I can't stress enough how much of me figured the refs would call it Seattle's way just because this was in Seattle. Have you ever stood before 70,000 people that consider themselves the most avid 70,000 people out of 32 groups of 70,000 people and thought "what your protagonists have accomplished is very impressive and remarkable, but it's not technically the way things should be." No, you haven't. These refs haven't either.

When the play is ruled a touchdown, I immediately am thinking back to a 2009 Packers-Steelers game in which the Steelers won on a last second touchdown throw by Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace. Both teams were out of playoff contention, competing for pride, and the game was of serious importance, but nobody cared because it was between two scrub squads. But, lo and behold, those teams met again in the Super Bowl at the end of the next season, and I viewed that game — a gutwrenching defeat — as the day the Super Bowl XLV Packers were born. Moments like those — where you're crushed and helpless but you gave it your all and have nothing to be ashamed of — they make you certain of who you are and ready for a bigger moment, say a Super Bowl saving defensive stand against a team who has trademarked late Super Bowl heroics.

And then I'm thinking, well, at least the Seahawks didn't beat us. Yeah, they got helped by the refs. These refs were in a dreadful situation, and I don't know what I would have done, let alone the real refs. It might have gone the same way, albeit a preceding pass interference penalty wouldn't have been called, and the Seahawks would have 32 more yards to chow through before seeing the goal line. It was a dreadful situation, but you have to make a call, and they made a really simple call. Touchdown, home team victory, comeback complete.

So Russell Wilson is parading around like a hero, Golden Tate just bullshitted the biggest moment of his life, Pete Carroll's talking about season-defining wins before his team's even kicked the extra point to make it official, and all the while the Packers are off in the locker room, probably thinking something along the lines of "fuck it." Fuck it — we played well enough to win this game, we intercepted the ball on the last play, we know our man had it, we played well enough to win. Fuck it — we deserved to lose based on the way they destroyed us in half one. Fuck it — this isn't the playoffs, it's Week 3, we've got time and that will never ever happen again ever. Fuck it — they called it, whatever, I guess we lost.

The game goes official and I'm really not all that bitter. It's like how eventually I realized in high school that rich kids just got things easier because their parents could pay for them. I wasn't a lesser person, I just didn't have things handed to me. This game was handed to the Seahawks by someone else. I mean, this mindset borders on denial, but I'm okay staring down a 1-2 record. I'm not scared. Now, I'm dying to hear Mike McCarthy's press conference, and sort of hoping we file a lawsuit or something absurd like that. By all means, practically any recourse is justified when a team is victimized to the extent we were tonight. I know that the fallout will be totally supportive of Green Bay, Skip Bayless will probably say that we're 2-1 all week on "This is Bullshit and I'm Skip Bayless" or whatever that show on ESPN is called.

The replay itself is stomach churning. The guy, M.D. Jennings, jumps up — so high — and gets his hands on the ball and rakes it in — great success! — but as they come down — watch out for poor Sam Shields down there — Golden Tate begins to force himself upon the ball. They fall to the ground — who's got it? — Jennings turns away, trying to yank possession all to himself — he fails at this and thus leads the referee to believe he has less of the ball than Tate — and Tate clings on as the ref signals touchdown. The words "simultaneous possession" have been murdered by overuse and may or may not apply. Let's not oversimplify it — the catch was confusing, and honestly a competent basketball ref would be running in with two thumbs up and we wouldn't have to decide who had the ball first, because we would just figure out who could have the ball now. It's a football play, and it's a fucking weird one that I've never seen before.

I watch the press conferences, read some of the reactions, read more of the reactions, and get increasingly upset. Some of these responses are funny, TJ Lang and Josh Sitton (Packers O-linemen) don't give a fuck how light their wallets become after their tweets tonight, Clay Matthews gives America Roger Goodell's phone number and I call in and offer a couple thoughts, including this suggestion: Why is it necessary to establish a call on the field in situations where the game (or half, or quarter) is over? In a situation like tonight, why can't the refs just be like "WE DON'T KNOW. DID YOU SEE THAT? WE'RE GOING TO GO LOOK AT THAT AND DOUBLE-CHECK BEFORE WE ESTABLISH A BURDEN OF PROOF HERE." While perhaps not conventional or loyal to the process, the idea of a "call on the field" is just saying you have to argue against something in your replay review, you can't decide something by replay. This isn't American court, we're not proving guilt or innocence, we're deciding something. Let there be a decision made upon review in situations where the officials are obviously flustered and uncertain.

Before this catch, there was the uncalled pass interference on Golden Tate — a blatant no-call that affected the game not only by not penalizing Tate, but by taking the defender in best position, Sam Shields, out of the play. Before the play, there had been a 32-yard pass interference call against  Shields in which he was actually tugged by wide receiver Sidney Rice, this was another call I think the refs knew something was wrong, threw a penalty flag to seem competent, then called it on the road team to appease the immediate audience. Before this there was a penalty for roughing the passer that negated an earlier Packers interception that really had serious dagger potential in itself. Obviously these refs tonight took a flyer on the whole "protect the quarterback" zeitgeist that plagued last year's officiating. They dropped laundry several times in the tackle box and here flagged Erik Walden on a play that players have been making all season without consideration from the refs, lament from the fans or protest from the players. If no pass interference is called, do you really think Seattle is whining about not getting that call? No. So there's three key missed calls by these referees which Roger Goodell backed several weeks ago and has not voiced much support for since the regular season began.

Blaming the refs is silly, to a degree. I mean, I may have been not far down the list of replacement officials, for all I know. These guys are coming from all different kinds of backgrounds and clearly are outclassed here. They still fuck these plays up and are influenced so much by trying to appear normal. Referees aren't an entity that should resemble Milford men — not seen and not heard — they should be controlling the game, setting a framework for the players to work within. These guys are afraid to intrude, because they are so unconfident in their abilities.

So we look around, we know it's commissioner Goodell's fault, it's also the fault of the Owners and I guess the players and I guess the fans for not taking serious action to combat this lockout. But I know it's not M.D. Jennings' fault, it's not Sam Shields' fault, and it's definitely not Golden Tate's fault we lost.

All I'm seeing is probably the most interesting football game of my lifetime and wondering how that affects the future for the Packers this season. We've got the Saints on Sunday, and we had better not make it close.

--Eliot Sill

1 comment:

  1. I'm such a casual NFL fan that these replacement ref controversies are actually making me want to watch the NFL more. Hold out, Goodell!