4th Quarter Controversy: Should Refs Ease Up on Controversial Penalties?

By Jennifer Lvovich

No one can argue that the Superbowl was entertaining to watch this year. There were the always-hilarious commercials mixed with a high-scoring game and a big-time artist performing at halftime. While I personally did not have a particular team to root for in the Superbowl as the Falcons barely missed their chance, I could see how legitimate fans of the two teams could have been very upset at some of the calls, or lack there-of in this most critical game. I personally like to believe that the best team usually wins in NFL football no matter what happens call-wise. If the talent is there, the wins should follow.

Most people, especially those with minimal football knowledge, are prone to blaming referees for not giving them calls on key offensive or defensive plays. And why wouldn’t they? It is much easier to blame one person or one play of a game at a critical moment than to try to assess an entire game’s worth of small details such as missed blocks or lazy coverage, especially when drunk, which I assume most of America was. I’m sure we can all remember this ridiculous blunder of a game that spurred weeks of controversy.

The specific play I want to focus on in the Superbowl was one in the 4th quarter. As everyone knows, the 49ers were down and needed a touchdown to pull ahead. They ran four plays to try to get a touchdown with none of them succeeding. The obvious move was to go for it on fourth down, which they did, choosing to run a pass play to the back right corner of the endzone. The pass went up, and immediately viewers could see the pass was overthrown, but even in the event of an overthrown pass, holding calls still have to be called as it is assumed the receiver was impacted by the defender where he didn’t have a chance at catching the ball.

The controversy I want to discuss is the fact that the ref did not throw his flag for what most to believe to be an obvious holding call, and according to the announcers, he did the right thing. Their excuse/reason for supporting the ref is that “the players should be allowed to play the game” in the final minutes, basically a free-for-all where illegal moves and tackles are welcomed. The ref, essentially, is “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t” so I say he needs to call whatever he believes is a penalty, regardless of the ramifications. If someone jumps him after the game, they are an idiot and take sports too seriously, but if you are an NFL ref, you sort of accept the potential for crazy people coming after you after a bad call. All you can do is hope the losing team gets over the loss. NFL games will always have controversy, and 100% of the people watching will not be happy at the end of the game, so why not call penalties just like any other part of the game. I don’t think there would be any more angry people than there are now, just a game that can be looked back on as a fair contest of ability with the proper calls.


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