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Law Review: Super Bowl XLVII

Submitted by on February 5 – 2013No Comment

In the Court of Public Opinion,

IN ERROR to the Super Bowl XLVII officiating crew, to review a judgment of incomplete pass in vicinity of the End Zone.  The judgment of the officiating crew is reversed, and the cause remanded to the 2 Yard Line of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for further proceedings.

Mr. James J. “Jim” Harbaugh and Overturned Bowls Of Chips Throughout The Free World, argued the case for Petitioner.

Everybody Else looked away awkwardly for the Respondent.


PUBLIC, J., delivered the opinion of the court.

This case arises from a fourth down pass attempt by the 49ers of San Francisco in the last quarter of Super Bowl XLVII.  In the play under review, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick attempted to complete a forward pass to receiver Michael Crabtree in the End Zone.  At that moment, the Ravens of Baltimore led the 49ers by a score of 34 to 31.  Had Kaepernick completed his pass, the 49ers would have taken a 37 to 34 lead, which presumably would have become a 38 to 34 lead upon completion of an extra point.

However, the intended receiver Mr. Crabtree was impeded in his course to the thrown pigskin by the unwelcome embrace of Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.  As the record at 1:55-Remaining indicates, Crabtree found himself entangled in the arms of Smith as the two players crossed the Goal Line into the End Zone.  As Smith’s left arm encircled the right side of Crabtree’s body, Crabtree’s momentum was impeded.  Crabtree attempted to push Smith away and reach for the descending ball, but to no avail.  The ball landed uncaught in the End Zone’s red artificial turf.

Head linesman Steve Stelljes, the closest official to the players in question, declined to flag Smith for defensive holding.  49ers coach Jim Harbaugh appealed Stelljes’s decision to head referee Jerome Boger.  As the record indicates from 1:55-Remaining until Sometime-Early-Monday, Harbaugh made the following arguments:



3. [Wild gesticulations.]

4. “You GOTTA give us a HOLD on that!”

5. [Expletive Deleted.]

6. [Headset Destroyed.]

Before we proceed to the applicable rules, this court notes with favor the valuable eyewitness testimony provided by a certain member of the Ravens linebacker corps in criminal proceedings unrelated to this case.  However, upon review of voluminous amicus briefs filed by Stringer Bell, Prop Joe, Marlo Stanfield and Omar Little, we have decided not to let this testimony influence our judgment in the present matter.

In reviewing the decision, we turn to the Official NFL Playing Rules, Rule 8, Section 4, Article 6, in which the infraction “Defensive Holding” is defined (seriously).  As the Article makes clear, Smith held Crabtree in an impermissible manner when he grasped Crabtree’s person and Crabtree’s jersey while encircling Crabtree with his arms.  In two amicus briefs filed on behalf of the Respondents, That TV Commentator Nobody Likes and Some Guy At The End Of The Bar both asserted that Article 4 of the same section allows defensive backs to maintain contact with receivers.  However, as the rest of the non-soccer-playing world knows, Article 4 only allows continuous contact for the first five yards from scrimmage.  After the two players crossed the Goal Line, conveniently located five yards from scrimmage, Smith was only allowed “incidental contact” of the sort which would not “materially affect” or “significantly impede” Crabtree’s progress toward the ball.  The record makes clear to this Court’s satisfaction that Smith materially affected and significantly impeded Crabtree’s progress.

The Court also notes the unfiled opinion of That Guy On The Train Who Uses His Phone In The Quiet Car, who asserted in his discussion with Some Other Guy that the pass was “uncatchable.”  That Guy presumably refers to Article 3(c) of Rule 8, Section 5, which provides that contact that would otherwise be pass interference is permissible if the pass in question was so far out of reach that the otherwise impermissible contact did not proximately cause the incompletion.  This Court notes with some exasperation that pass interference and defensive holding are two totally different things.  (See also, The Rules of Football, Stupid.)

The appropriate call on the play was, “Holding, Number Twenty-Two, Defense, Half the Distance to the Goal Line, Automatic First Down.”  This case is remanded to the Superdome for further proceedings in accordance with this ruling.  Please reset the game clock to one minute and fifty-three seconds.

In the event that the parties to this controversy are unable or unwilling to return to the Superdome for replay of the game’s last minutes, then Petitioners are hereby advised that maybe next time you should not let your opponents take twenty-two point leads while running roughshod over your special teams.  This Court notes that Petitioners should just be grateful for the mysterious electromagnetic phenomenon that gave you a chance to get back in this game.  This court is also frankly somewhat baffled and unnerved after watching Beyoncé Knowles’s halftime show.  Is she, like, multiplying?

Finally, the persons or persons responsible for the 33 minute stadium power outage are hereby ordered to replace supermodel Bar Rafaeli in next year’s awkward make-out commercial with the homely (but probably very nice) actor Jesse Heiman from, uh, I’ve seen him in something…  As for Ms. Rafaeli, she is to report to the offices of The Record at Fordham Law for make-out assignments to be determined by this court at a later date.

–Austin Murnane

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