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How Did a Holding Call Change the Outcome of the Super Bowl?

How Did a Holding Call Change the Outcome of the Super Bowl?

In a championship game like the Super Bowl, what are the big moments? Is it the last minute, final strikeout of a dreaded batter? What about a tied shootout game in hockey? Well, for the Super Bowl LVII (57th) it was the last minute holding call on defensemen James Bradbery.


Photo from: https://medialtd.com/uncategorized/super-bowl-lvii-a-super-bowl-of-firsts/


With less than 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the game was tied 35-35. The Chiefs were in possession and were 3rd-and-8 while at the 15 yard line. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed the ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster, and there was Bradbery right next to him. The overturned pass made it look like the Chiefs would need to kick for a field goal to save themselves from a loss.


Then, out of nowhere, a yellow penalty flag was thrown onto the field. Bradbery was called for defensive holding on Smith-Schuster and the chiefs were given a 10 yard bonus. Making them 1st-and 10 at the 11 yard line. Instead of running the ball, the Chiefs kicked for a field goal and won the game with only 8 seconds left.

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The question is this: if the call made by the ref was different or nonexistent, would the outcome of the game be the same or not? What would have happened if the game went into overtime?


A referee’s job is to view the game from an unbiased standpoint and call and report unfair play by both teams. Refs are utilized in the big leagues of any sports, but also in high school sporting events like our very own football games. Their job is tough because they are constantly surrounded by loud, passionate fans hoping to see their team win. Because of this, refs get negative feedback from certain calls they make because it does or doesn’t benefit a certain team.


“Officiating is really hard,” Phil Mulroe, a teacher at Portage High School and licensed high school refereeing official, said. “It’s a tremendous challenge to juggle all of the logistics involved in officiating while also preparing, both mentally and physically, to officiate. We don’t show up at game time and toss on the stripes, there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that serious officials put into the advocacy.”


When looking at an important game like the Super Bowl, crowds and passionate fans are the heart of the game. Their cheers and occasional boo’s to refs, players, and others are distracting not only to the other spectators, but the referees themselves. In Portage, the student section for football or basketball games is no stranger to letting the referees know how they feel about calls against Portage athletes.


“The crowd doesn’t affect us a lot,” said Nathan Ramian, PTS Administrator and officiator of five years. “[I] really cannot listen to what they say. Sometimes you just need to have that positive interaction with them and it goes a long way. During a timeout or something, pass them the ball or something like that. Just stay professional but still have fun with it.”


In terms of the Super Bowl holding penalty on Bradbery, the public opinion depends on what side of the public is asked. Chiefs fans are most likely satisfied and grateful for the call made because it benefited them; on the other hand, Philly fans are left heartbroken and at a loss for words. They did not appreciate the call made by the referees.


“I do not officiate football,” said Mr. Ramian, “but in that time of the game, that call cannot be made. That physical contact was going on for the whole game and wasn’t called.”


` Mr. Mulroe added, “The official who threw on that play has seen that play a million times (without hyperbole) over the years.”


It is fair to say that these calls and penalties made by any and all referees are made with logical reason behind them. It will never be known as to what would have happened if that call was never made, but in the end, the Chiefs got their way and won Super Bowl LVII.

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