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Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Super Bowl Seven-Squared quantified the previously unquantifiable. To wit, the difference between monumental genius and sublime idiocy.  Turns out, it's about three inches.

The Seattle Seahawks' final play of the 2015 Super Bowl was surely a high (low?) point in the annals of sports ignominy.  If you missed the game. . . what are you?  Some kind of communist?!?

For the rest, you will recall that the Seahawks, down by four points with about 30 seconds to play, found themselves at the Patriots' one-yard line in a second-and-goal situation.  Anyone following the game at all knew what was coming next: Marshawn Lynch, arguably the best running back in the NFL, a nigh unstoppable tank of a man, would tear through the defense for the go-ahead touchdown.  A no-brainer.  Instead, however, the next play saw quarterback Russell Wilson drop back and throw a pass that was intercepted by previously unheralded New England defender Malcolm Butler.  Game over.  Patriots win.

In the 48 hours or so since that play, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has come under fire for his inexplicable decision to have Wilson throw the ball in that situation.  Considering the stakes--the end of the road for Seattle's quest for back-to-back championships--this play has justly been called one of the worst--if not the absolute worst--ever called.  But let's be clear about one thing: The only reason the coach is being vilified is because the play didn't work.

I think the call was a mistake, too, but let's be fair: Russell Wilson didn't make a terrible throw.  The ball was actually thrown right to the hands of the intended receiver, Jerome Kearse.  Sure the ball was a scooch too far for the receiver to grasp firmly, but if Wilson throws the ball even another two or three inches to the right, Kearse probably makes the catch, and sheer momentum carries him into the end-zone for the winning score.  In this alternate universe, Pete Carroll becomes, if not "brilliant," at least "gutsy": We would then be reading about how Carroll outfoxed the Patriots, who were almost definitely expecting a Lynch run.  And the contrarian viewpoints would belong to the handful of people who lamented the fact that an "idiotic" call somehow worked out.

In fact, Carroll could (although he hasn't, exactly) even now defend himself by saying that the sheer "stupidity" of the call was designed to catch the defense off guard.  If everybody "knows" you're going to employ a certain strategy, then shouldn't that, theoretically, be the one strategy you shouldn't employ?

As I say, I think Carroll made a mistake; he should have stuck with the conventional game plan. Predictable or not, in that situation, you play the percentages.  If you lose the game because the Patriots somehow manage to stop Lynch three times at the goal line, you tip your hat to the defense.  Which, I guess, is what we're doing anyway: Butler made a spectacular play.  But keep in mind that this Platonic ideal of a moronic play was only a fingertip away from being an example of sheer genius.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for making football far more interesting to me. Brava.