In the aftermath of Pittsburgh's victory, there's been a lot of talk about the poor officiating in Super Bowl XL. To get some perspective on the game, I asked baseball umpire Doug Eddings to look at the game tape and give his opinion on some of the more controversial calls.
Zembla: Thanks for helping out, Doug.
Doug Eddings: No problem. Say, were the Chicago White Sox involved in the Super Bowl this year?
Zembla: No, the White Sox are a baseball team. It's the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.
Eddings: OK, got it. Do either of these teams play in the American League Central Division?
Zembla: Again, that's baseball. The Seahawks are in the NFC West, and the Steelers play in the AFC North.
Eddings: AFC North, that's close enough. Let's do this.
Zembla: Sounds good. Now, Doug, I'm going to show you a controversial play, and you just let me know what you think of the call on the field.
Eddings: Will do, buddy.
Zembla: Here's the first one. Darrell Jackson catches a pass at the 23 for a first down, but the Seahawks are called for holding.
Eddings: Looks like a pretty obvious penalty to me.
Zembla: Alright, let's move on. The next play is a little more critical. Darrell Jackson catches what looks like a touchdown pass, but he's called for offensive pass interference. Some people have complained that this was a "ticky-tack" call, and that the referee threw the flag late.
Eddings: You know, that didn't seem late to me. In fact, he seemed a little hasty. Take your time, let the players jog off the field into the dugout --
Zembla: They don't have dugouts.
Eddings: Whatever. The important thing isn't the speed of the call. It's that you eventually make a call, and stick to it, no matter how indefensible and illogical that call might be. Anyway, Jackson clearly changed the direction of the defensive back there. Great call.
Zembla: Alright. The next play is a punt return. Peter Warrick runs the kick back 33 yards, but it's called back due to a holding penalty.
Eddings: Warrick plays for the Seahawks?
Eddings: OK, that's definitely a hold. Holding that one guy over there, totally.
Zembla: Fair enough, Doug. Now, in this disputed play, Ben Roethlisberger tries to run the ball in, but appears to be stopped at the goal line. The touchdown signal is a bit delayed --
Eddings: Doesn't matter. What's your hurry? He's been signalling like that all game. Great call.
Zembla: Well, the Seahawks challenge the call, and the replay official--
Eddings: No need! That replay crap is bullshit! He saw it fine the first time. Next call.
Zembla: This next play is - it's actually just a missed field goal by Josh Brown. I guess it's not really controversial.
Eddings: You sure that kick missed? Kinda looks like it went through the uprights to me.
Zembla: Doug, he obviously missed the kick. Look at it. It goes wide left. It's not even that close.
Eddings: (Shrugs) Agree to disagree.
Zembla: The next play is - OK, this is simply a terrible call. On an interception return, Matt Hasselbeck tackles Ike Taylor, but he gets called for blocking below the waist, even though he's making a tackle, not blocking.
Eddings: Boy, that is a close one. He looks like he's blocking well below the waist here.
Zembla: Come on, Doug! How could he be blocking there? Hasselbeck's making a tackle! He's on defense!
Eddings: Young man, they teach us in umpiring school never to be afraid to ask for help when you're unsure. So if you don't mind, I'd like to consult with my good pal, NFL official Pete Morelli. Come on in, Pete. (Pete Morelli enters)
Pete Morelli: Hey Doug. You're asking about the Hasselbeck block?
Eddings: Yes. To me, the question is, does Hasselbeck make a football move?
Zembla: That's not the question!
Morelli: Doug, I'm going to say that Hasselbeck definitely makes a football move going after that blocker. Good call. Tack on fifteen yards to the end of the return.
Eddings: I concur, Pete.
Zembla: Unbelievable. Fine, we'll move on. On this play, Hasselbeck scrambles, but appears to fumble at the end of the play. Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu recovers - but the play is challenged and reversed.
Morelli: Polamalu. Replay. Why does that sound familiar?
Eddings: Pete, that looked like a horse collar tackle by Hasselbeck. What do you think?
Morelli: Hmm. See, this is where I would have blown the play dead and made them replay the down, Doug.
Eddings: I concur. First down, Steelers!
Zembla: That doesn't make any sense! Pete, what gives? In the game against Indianapolis, every call you made went against the Steelers. And now, you and Doug are displaying ridiculous favoritism toward Pittsburgh. Did the NFL pay you off? Is this because Jerome Bettis was playing in Detroit, his hometown?
Eddings: I'm fairly sure Bettis is from Chicago.
Zembla: He's from Detroit!
Eddings: (Shrugs) Agree to disagree.
Zembla: Seriously, Pete, what's going on?
Morelli: (Deep breath) It's Mr. Joey Porter. He knows where I live.
Zembla: But...the game's over. The Steelers won. You weren't even working the game!
Morelli: That doesn't matter to Mr. Porter. From what I hear, he's already trying to motivate himself for next season. If you're reading, Mr. Porter, you should know both Doug and I respect you a whole bunch.
Zembla: OK, this is pathetic. We'll look at one last play, and then this is over. Here, the play clock expires, but the officials still allow Ben Roethlisberger to call time out. Shouldn't this have been a delay of game penalty?
Morelli: No sir. I wouldn't be surprised if a defensive player on the Pittsburgh sideline, possibly a outside linebacker, saw the play clock winding down and alertly signalled for a timeout. Great call.
Eddings: Pete, I'm gonna have to say that's a passed ball. Take your base, Big Ben.
Zembla: I hate you both.