Record viewership brings out armchair coaches

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Last night’s Super Bowl game set yet another record for the most-watched television event in American history. It was the fifth time in six years the NFL’s championship match-up had brought in a record-breaking audience.

More than 114 million people tuned in to watch the New England Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl championship in dramatic fashion. Coming back from a double-digit fourth quarter deficit to win a Super Bowl was gripping television, and Malcolm Butler’s interception on the goal line was one of the more remarkable plays in Super Bowl history.

That’s why it was so surprising to see headlines dominated by rampant criticism of the Seattle Seahawks’ final play call and not the outstanding effort demonstrated by Butler on the interception.

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The play call was far from perfect. In that set of circumstances, the safe thing to do is keep the ball on the ground and trust a very talented running back to gain one yard.

While the call was risky, it does seem as though the power of suggestion is alive and well. Once a few influential sources begin to question or criticize a decision, social media does the rest with knee-jerk emotional hyperbole.

The phrase “Worst call of all-time” has been thrown around throughout various media outlets, and that seems unfair considering what transpired.

There is a photo circulating on sports blogs right now of what Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson saw right as he released the ball. In this still-shot, Butler, the Mississippi native who secured the interception that saved the Patriots’ season, looked to be in no position to make a play on Wilson’s throw.

The receiver looked to be running completely free, and were it not for an incredible display of anticipation and athleticism from Butler, the pass would have been completed easily.

To label Seattle’s play call as the “worst of all-time” would be to imply that it had no chance of succeeding, which is obviously not the case. It also unfairly demeans one of the more memorable and impressive feats of skill in the game’s storied history.