Referee who blew calls in Super Bowl XL not causing the uproar some had expected.
PITTSBURGH — Bill Leavy began the week as a headline.
He is that guy, the referee from Super Bowl XL, and he will officiate the Seahawks’ game in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Initial reactions to his assignment ranged from utter disbelief to outright anger.
By Sunday, though, Bill Leavy wasn’t much more than a footnote for Seattle.
He’s still a reference point for the most profound disappointment in Seahawks’ franchise history, but he is no longer a city’s singular fixation. The anger and vitriol dissipated, the conspiracy theories never surfaced. There was no grassy knoll, no smoking gun. It has taken more than five years, but Seattle has reached a different stage in the grieving process over that Super Bowl defeat: acceptance.
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That doesn’t mean anyone is OK with what happened.
The 12th Man is always going to feel like he took one in the shorts against the Steelers in Detroit. He’s still going to grit his teeth, clench a fist and feel that game could have, should have turned out differently.
But more and more people are willing to accept the officiating in that Super Bowl wasn’t any more complicated than poorly timed, critical mistakes. It was incompetence, not intent, and when someone admits a mistake and expresses regret — as Leavy did in Seattle last year — there really aren’t many follow-up questions.
No one has forgotten, and there might not be any who have forgiven, but Seattle has tired of rehashing the officiating of that game in particular.
Now that doesn’t mean Leavy should be officiating this game. He absolutely shouldn’t. An official strives to do his job so well he’s not really noticed. Good luck with that today, Leavy. The fact most people in Seattle know his name is a sign of his infamy.
The assignment is the kind of oversight that makes palm meet forehead, the kind of disregard that tells Seattle the rest of the NFL truly does consider it Southern Alaska.
If the NFL went three years after Super Bowl XL without assigning Leavy to officiate a game involving coach Mike Holmgren, then certainly it could have kept him from presiding over this one.
His assignment was greeted with predictable hostility in Seattle.
On Twitter, I asked people to complete the following sentence: “Assigning Bill Leavy to officiate Seattle’s game in Pittsburgh is like (blank).” Among the suggestions were two references to Michael Vick and canine care, one to Casey Anthony and even a mention of World War II Germany.
That kind of venom gave me visions of a week dominated by officiating stories. I wondered if Leavy’s presence would dominate any discussion of the game Sunday, resulting in a week spent rehashing the specific mistakes in that Super Bowl and scrutinizing the mechanics of referee assignments in the NFL.
Then a funny thing happened. Seattle got over it. I received more criticism from readers for bringing up the subject than outrage at Leavy’s assignment. I was called a muckraker.
The fact Leavy was assigned was more an aggravation to Seahawks fans, an insult, but not proof of some underlying conspiracy. There wasn’t much more to the story than the fact a nettlesome character from the Seahawks’ past would be on the field Sunday.
Seattle didn’t necessarily forgive Leavy, and it certainly has not forgotten, but the 12th Man has moved on.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org