NEWARK, N.J.––Maybe, just maybe, you'd think a berth in the Super Bowl might allow Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate to soften his stance about events that transpired the evening of Sept. 24, 2012.
Perhaps the prospect of playing in the most-publicized sporting event in all of America and achieving the team goal of winning the NFC Championship might allow him to relent and conform with the majority of football fans that Tate really didn't catch what was ruled to be a touchdown pass to beat the Green Bay Packers in front of a nationally-televised audience on ESPN's Monday Night Football last season.
The play that captivated a nation and arguably changed the tone of an entire NFL season was worth revisiting. Does Tate still believe he hauled in a last-ditch heave from quarterback Russell Wilson as time expired?
"100 percent," said Tate on Tuesday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., site of the annual Super Bowl Media Day.
Tate embodied the spectacle that Media Day has become, wearing a Google Glass optical head-mount display along with a GoPro personal camera mounted to the bill of his Seahawks baseball cap. For the fourth-year NFL veteran, it's a way for him to document his experience and share it with the Seattle fanbase, taking audio and video that he'll later publish.
Tate looked a little crazy decked out with all his gadgets, but maybe that's apropos too. After all, there are many that think he's a little crazy for going along with the controversial call.
An ESPN SportsNation poll taken in the aftermath of the Packers-Seahawks game shows the majority of fans in all 50 states (87 percent overall)––even those in Washington––believed the ruling should have been an interception.
For those needing a reminder, Tate tangled with Packers safety M.D. Jennings in the end zone over possession of the football, which was eventually ruled a touchdown by replacement referee Lance Easley. After the extra point, the Seahawks walked away with 14-12 victory.
The whole replacement-official angle only fueled the debate, as just days later the NFL and the officials' union agreed on a deal that ended the league's lockout three weeks into the regular season.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would insist what's become known in popular lexicon as the "Fail Mary" didn't directly influence the ensuing agreement, but it's difficult to deny that the play didn't at least have an indirect impact at the bare minimum.
As a result of the infamous event, Tate's public profile and celebrity was raised exponentially.
"For really a complete year, anyone who at first met me, the first question (was), 'Did you really catch that ball?' said Tate, "and I would joke around and say, 'Stop asking stupid questions' or something funny and say, 'Of course I did.' It's crazy, especially on social media, I still catch noise for that."
In fairness to Tate, not everyone believes the play was an interception.
Despite the minority opinion, an article published by Scott Kacsmar of ColdHardFootballFacts.com attempts in intimate detail to corroborate the ruling by Easley.
"When you take your emotions out of it, and only study the facts, then there is no denying the replacement referees got the ending right, and the NFL’s statement was correct in upholding the call," writes Kacsmar.
Whatever the case, the effect on the Packers' season had far-reaching effects. The one-game difference between a potential 12-4 record and their recognized 11-5 record resulted in Green Bay traveling to San Francisco in the divisional round of the playoffs instead of hosting a game at Lambeau Field.
With losses in the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, including that defeat to the 49ers on the road, confidence in Green Bay has hit a low point since winning the Super Bowl following the 2010 season.
As for Tate and the Seahawks, however, things couldn't be working out better. They've been trending upward ever since that notorious game against the Packers and are now playing for the right to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Maybe it's destiny. Perhaps the fates look fondly upon Tate, dating back to his college days at Notre Dame.
"If you go back and look at my junior year, I did the same exact thing against Washington State in Texas (at a neutral site)," said Tate. "I caught a Hail Mary ball before half for a touchdown, so it's not uncharacteristic in my eyes. And I expect as a competitor, I expect myself to catch any ball near me."
Maybe, just maybe, it will continue to be that way when Tate faces the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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