It was one of the most anticipated match-ups of the play-offs and it lived up to its billing, but the conclusion of the Pittsburgh Steelers-Indianapolis Colts game could have been different from what it turned out to be, thanks to a botched officiating call.
With five minutes and 26 seconds left in the game, Steelers safety Troy Palomalu intercepted a pass by Peyton Manning at the Pittsburgh 48 yard-line that could have been a game-changing moment, but the call was reversed by referee Peter Morelli after he reviewed the play.
There is no doubt that the ball was intercepted by Palomalu-in fact the NFL later admitted that the referee made a mistake with the call.
But how could Morelli, after reviewing the play several times, decide that it was an incomplete pass?
The call, more than anything else, incensed many, including Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, who suggested that there might have been a conspiracy to put the Colts in the championship game.
There has been a long history of flawed officiating in sports games that influenced the outcome of games.
In the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal between Argentina and England, the referee failed to notice that the goal scored by Diego Maradona was assisted by his hand. Argentina went on to win the world cup.
In the 2004 Wimbledon second round, Venus Williams lost to Karolina Sprem of Croatia amidst a controversial point awarded to Sprem in the second set tie-break. Although, neither player seemed to complain about the wrong call, the umpire should have had the presence of mind to make the right call.
Botched calls like the one made in the Steelers win usually have huge impacts, especially in the business of sports, which rakes in billions of dollars. They also tend to have other, non-financial impacts.
If the play had gone the other way, perhaps the Jerome Bettis fumble in the red zone would not have occurred, and Bettis fan Terry O’Neill may not have suffered a heart attack. At the very least, Morelli’s house may not have been vandalized due to his inaccuracy as well.
The economy thrives from the exploitation of sports. Bad officiating calls, such as the pass interference call against Miami in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl, which gave Ohio State the win, has changed not only history, but the school’s profitability as well.
It’s time for sports officials to be fined for the controversial calls they make and when they are fined, it should be made public to the fans.
There are too many instances where referees have influenced the final score in a game for this aspect of sports to be overlooked.
Morelli, and others like him, need to pay in some way for dashing many fans’ hopes and robbing players of plays.
While I do not endorse the vandalism of Morelli’s home, the NFL’s lack of punishment may have resulted in fans taking the matter into their own hands.
Wandoo Makurdi is a mass media studies student from Lagos, Nigeria. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.