On the Sideline in Seattle
by Mike Conklin
September 26, 2012
The eye in the sky doesn't lie.
That is what makes what happened on Monday night so difficult to swallow. While watching dozens of replays from every angle and at every speed imaginable, we have the benefit of seeing a slightly different picture than how it may have appeared in real time down on the field.
I have been in contact with a friend from college who now works for a pro sports team on the West Coast. He was on the sideline in a professional capacity during the game in Seattle, and as a result he was able to see some of the key moments of the game up close and personal. As the infamous game-ending play unfolded he was located just beyond the end zone line, literally feet away from where the play took place. He happened to be in the perfect place at the perfect time for a moment in history.
After the fact, my friend pointed out to me exactly where he was stationed and I could clearly see him on camera. Simply put, there could not have been a better vantage point to see that final play. If I wanted to know what M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate ate for breakfast, he would probably be able to tell me.
Due to a confidentiality agreement within his contract, he preferred to remain off the record. Thankfully, he did not mind sharing the view he had during that game, because it was something the average fan will never see.
As a backdrop to the conversation, I mentioned to my friend something that Steve Young said during the ESPN postgame coverage. Young stated that he and Trent Dilfer were standing down on the sideline right in front of the play, and neither of them had any doubt it was an interception when it happened. In those brief moments just after the players went down to the ground, Young said that he saw indecision on the faces of the referees. At that point, Young thought to himself, "Oh, no..." The next thing they knew, the side judge signaled the touchdown.
My source had a slightly different view of the play:
On the last play I was in the end zone, so my perspective was just a little bit different than the ESPN crew. They were standing right around the 5-yard line. It was so loud and there was so much energy down on the field...it was absolutely crazy.
When the ball was in the air, it felt like the play was in slow motion. From where I was standing, it almost seemed like a game of 500 from when we were kids. Once the players came down to the ground, I think Golden Tate was lucky that the pile actually fell ON TO him.
Even though it seemed like the ball was in the air forever, when it came down it was pure chaos. In the replay it was a bit more interception favorable than in real time, but that's from 22 angles and in super slow motion. When I was there it was just so crazy and loud, and the energy was just unbelievable. And in the mad scramble it seemed like there were about three or four guys with the ball. From my angle I just couldn't tell in real time who had caught the ball. It wasn't so clear that Jennings had it first.
Once it seemed like the play should be over there was this strange delay that was probably two seconds but felt like two hours, before the referee finally put up his hands to signal a touchdown. After that it was just nutty chaos down there.
At that point, the refs looked like they had no idea what was going on. They were running here, then there. They left, then came back. They seemed completely disorganized. And I can not stress it enough...the energy at that point was just beyond belief.
It seemed like the extreme noise and energy in the building at that time was what came through most clearly as he described the scene. It was absolute mayhem at that moment, and hearing his description of the scene makes one consider that it may simply have been impossible for a handful of inexperienced part-time high school referees to remain unaffected by their surroundings in an environment like that. In such a moment, home field advantage is multiplied exponentially.
The friend that provided this account is a native of the Northwest and grew up watching Seahawks football. Although he knows they got away with one, he also remembers how Seattle has often been on the other side of bad calls throughout their history. Although he feels bad for what happened to the Packers, he repeats a familiar refrain heard often these days by Seahawks fans:
I'll trade the touchdown for a re-do on the two bad calls in the Super Bowl against the Steelers...
He said it with a smile, but it was clear that he still carried the scars of having his favorite team victimized by officiating blunders. At that point, it was as if the ghosts of Seattle sports past reared their ugly heads. Up until then, he had tried to remain objective about the whole thing. But years of pent-up frustration quickly took over and began spilling out.
I think what Seattle feels is a mix of joy and shock. Joy and disbelief we scored. Shock for a Seattle fan that a call finally went our way. The Seahawks were screwed by normal refs back in the Super Bowl. Vinny Testaverde had a Phantom Touchdown for the Jets that kept us out of the playoffs in '98. Or how about the non-interception of Fredd Young against the Oilers in '87? The Sonics were screwed when they played the Suns, and don't get me started on the Mariners and Yankees...
Time may heal all wounds, but as my friend demonstrated they never completely go away. Most fans can relate with the raw emotion he expressed there, and now Packers fans will have to get used to carrying this painful loss with them forever. It has already been burned into their memories, and will remain in their consciousness along with "4th-and-26" and the NFL Championship loss to the Giants in overtime. All too often, the agony of defeat seems to linger longer than the thrill of victory. It may just be the human condition.
On a final note, shortly after our discussion my friend sent me a video of the play that was captured by somebody very close to where he was standing. Somebody had sent him a link to this video, and he was in shock when he received it because it looked just like what he saw. He didn't know who shot the video, but he said they must have been standing right next to him because this was pretty much exactly the same view that he had:
Photo Credit: Associated Press