Thiel: Call still wrong, but taint sticks to Tate


by Art Thiel


Posted on September 27, 2012 at 4:30 PM

In the charts of American pop culture, somewhere between Snooki and Iron Man, sits Golden Tate, a late arriver but rising with a bullet.

Bemused. Bewildered. Beseeched. Not beaten.

For the second week in a row, the Seahawks wide receiver is the object of large national sports controversy, first for flattening a Cowboys linebacker with a block that bent sound waves, and Monday for a reception that bent the NFL.

With reports circulating that the league and its referees union are nearing a settlement of their labor dispute, due in no small part to Tate's touchdown catch that many believe wasn't, he was asked Wednesday what he planned to do for an encore in St. Louis, where the Seahawks play Sunday.

"Maybe throwing a touchdown pass, kicking a field goal, punting it . . . maybe a fake punt to cause controversy," he said, grinning. "We'll see."

Tate was doing his best to keep it light, which is the province of those who come out on the long end of the conflagration Monday that became a media starburst. From "The Today Show" to "The Colbert Report" through a Twitterverse firestorm, Tate's catch that beat the Green Bay Packers has been freeze-framed more than Jamie Lee Curtis's topless scene in "Trading Places."

But the episode for Tate hasn't all been a giggle-fest.

"There's been moments where it's been tough," said. "My feelings have been hurt on Twitter. It's . . . whatever."

What is being said?

"If I mix in those words, it would be bleeps, bleeps, bleeps," he said.  "It's nasty stuff. Mean.

"I've been called a cheater; I don't have any dignity; I'm not a Christian. A lot of hurtful things . . . "

Unsurprisingly, the anonymous, knuckle-dragger crowd is vilifying Tate for doing his job while missing the point that it is the NFL, by using replacement referees, has failed to do its job by presenting the game beneath the professional standards that it has set for itself.

The hyprocisy screams like un-medicated dentistry, but it's always easier to target an individual than to blame the corrupt culture (see the American presidency). And Tate inadvertently left himself open to abuse by committing a pre-catch foul that, after watching the ubiquitous video, he admits he did.

"I'm not going to deny pushing him," he said of shoving cornerback Sam Shields to the ground before leaping for the ball. " The evidence shows on the film. I wasn't trying to cheat. I was in the moment. I honestly didn't try to push him down to the ground.

"It was just like backyard football, trying to find a way to get the ball."

In a football game, everyone is in the moment, so that's no excuse. But the backyard-football part is painfully true, given the quality of officiating. That's not on Tate.

His foul improved his chances to catch the ball. A flag thrown by an official experienced in big moments likely would have given the Packers a 12-7 win, and the Seahawks would have no argument. But a player is under no obligation to compensate for an official's incompetence.

As far as the catch itself, that wasn't a miss, it was a judgment call. It was reviewed by NFL officials in the pressbox at the time, and again Tuesday in New York, from where the league office agreed with the field and box crews there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.

I still disagree with the NFL's interpretation of its own rules, because I believe their interpretation is wrong,  as this breakdown by explains. Moreover, the judgment is clouded by league politics -- when it's such a close call on such a high platform, the league had to back the replacements' judgments or risk losing further ground in negotiations. Until a new deal is struck, the NFL's official position is that the replacements are as good as the locked-out officials, otherwise the league is subject to fans' demands for ticket refunds for an inferior product.

In fact, it's already happened. In Seattle. The Seahawks' reception and ticket offices were  peppered with requests from fans wanting a refund for the balance on their season ticket accounts because they felt the Seahawks cheated and were unworthy of further support.

The taint of Tate was too much for some of the Seahawks' own. In the longstanding local argument over whether Seattle sports fans are too nice, I think the battle has been won by the critics of the civic sissyhood.

Somehow, they think an apology is in order from Tate and the Seahawks.

"A lot of people would like me to say I did not catch the ball," he said. "I didn't have a chance to play it on the DVR 50 times. At that moment, I couldn't tell you completely what happened.

"It's refreshing to know the NFL made the right call. That should clear up a lot of things."

Well, no, the NFL didn't make the right call. It merely circled the wagons. It's an argument that will be without end.

Meanwhile, Carroll said Tate is holding up under the scrutiny.

"I know he got a microphone stuck right in his mug instantly after the play was over because the game was done," Carroll said. "He talked about competing, talked about battling, and I thought he handled himself as well as he could under the craziest of circumstances.

"I think he’s going to be just fine. I think he’s very humble. It’s been a long haul for him, been frustrating for him, he wanted to do it earlier, but I think he’s so equipped as a player that he’s going to handle this fine."

However, if a fan would like to switch passions to a related topic that is actually intelligent and relevant to the near future, the Seahawks lead the NFL in penalties per game at 10.7, and the average yardage loss is per game is third-worst (81).

They were third-worst a year ago too (65.7), which means the Seahawks are one of two things: The team most victimized by the bad officiating so far, or they continue to be a bunch of undisciplined louts who are compromising an otherwise good team with stupid fouls.

Jeez, are they in trouble when the real teachers get back to the classroom instead of the substitutes.

More Art Thiel