Block & Tackle is John Teti’s column about pro football.
Super Bowl XLIX was filled with pivotal moments—one pivotal moment too many, if you’re a Seattle Seahawks fan—but one of the most crucial turning points wasn’t even seen on television. After Seattle scored a touchdown in the third quarter to take a 24-14 lead over the New England Patriots, NBC’s broadcast abruptly cut away from receiver Doug Baldwin’s end zone celebration. Here is what TV viewers saw:
But here is the footage captured at the scene by a citizen journalist, apparently using the camera on a circa-2003 flip phone:
Although it’s hard to see through all the pixels, that’s Baldwin putting on a pantomime act in which he pulls down his pants and poops on the ball—or, depending on your interpretation, poops out the ball. NBC producer Fred Gaudelli told the network’s own Pro Football Talk website that the cutaway from Baldwin was just a timing fluke, which is credible. Baldwin did take a while after the catch to position his bowels over the ball, so it figures that the director was already looking for his next shot (of a sad Tom Brady). But even if the cutaway was an accident, Gaudelli told Sports Illustrated that it was a happy one:
NBC felt the celebration was inappropriate. “He scores the touchdown and you see the initial celebration and you think he is done,” Gaudelli said. “At that point, [director] Drew [Esocoff] is cutting around to other people affected by that touchdown. We showed the play-action fake of Wilson and how Darrelle Revis was picked by the umpire. I think in commercial I was looking at the celebration by Baldwin, and I was like, ‘Forget that. I’m not showing that.’”
TV football people have a real complex about butt-related celebrations. During a 2005 NFC Wild Card game between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings, Fox play-by-play announcer Joe Buck was enraged to the verge of apoplexy after Vikings receiver Randy Moss faux-mooned the Green Bay crowd. The historic moment is seen here with trenchant commentary (audio NSFW) from an aggrieved Minnesota fan:
NBC’s prudishness is funny and harmless, but it did violate an unspoken code of sports TV. Baldwin’s act resulted in a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (which announcer Al Michaels mentioned), and it’s commonly accepted practice for broadcasters to show the infraction that drew a flag. That way, the home audience can judge for themselves, and more to the point, any action that materially affects the game ought to show up on the screen. Gaudelli knows this, and in his Pro Football Talk interview, he tried to weasel out of it by saying, “The penalty had zero impact on the game, as the Patriots punted on the ensuing drive.” Which is sort of like saying NBC didn’t need to show second down because it only led to third down anyway.
Besides, if you’re going to assess the impact of Doug Baldwin’s poop with the benefit of hindsight, you might as well pull the lens all the way back and look at the entire game. Then you can see how, in fact, Super Bowl XLIX turned on Baldwin’s invisible soft serve. Here are the key statistics. Pre-poop, Seattle outscored the Patriots 24-14. Post-poop, Seattle was outscored 14 to zip. That Marcel Marceau trouser drop was the momentum shift that swung a championship. By ignoring Baldwin’s celebration, NBC missed the most important lesson we learned on Sunday: Don’t poop in the Super Bowl.
“Football season never ends on NFL Network,” according to the commercials on NFL Network this week, even though football season had just ended, as reported by NFL Network. We are now in the offseason, the seven-month stretch during which everyone is a potential Super Bowl winner, even the Houston Texans. As such, the football world is a magical realm of hopes, extended contract negotiations, and dreams. Here are key dates to mark on your calendar. If you don’t have a calendar, purchase one before reading ahead.
February 17-23: Scouting combine. Top draft prospects attend this meat market to showcase their athletic ability in standardized drills such as Jumping Up To Slap Some Things…
…and the closely scrutinized Cone Dance:
March 10: Free agency begins. Notable potential free agents for 2015 include Detroit defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, and New York Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul. But do not be misled: These supposedly “free” agents will in fact be quite expensive to a team that signs them. Suh, for instance, is expected to fetch a $45 billion contract ($8 million guaranteed).
March 22-25: Owners’ meetings. The league’s owners convene annually to be rich around each other. Activities include rousing games of Who’s The Richest? and Rich-Off. During this week, owners and coaches will also adjust the rules to address whatever the Indianapolis Colts are bitching about now.
April 30-May 2: NFL draft. Chicago hosts the draft for the first time in more than 50 years. By tradition, players chosen in early rounds have been invited onstage to hug the commissioner, except during the tenure of Pete Rozelle, who preferred to kiss.
Mid-July: Training camp. As players get themselves back into shape, your local beat reporter will keep you updated on the outstanding “quickness,” “instincts,” and “star potential” of promising new recruits. The recruits will then be cut from the team.
August 9-September 3: Preseason. Out of desperation for actual intercourse, pubescent teens have been known to copulate with inanimate objects, like couch cushions or washing machines. Preseason is the NFL equivalent.
As seen on the NBCSN recap show NFL Turning Point. So if you’re keeping track of NBC’s content standards: sweaty butt okay, pretend-pooping butt not okay.
From the moment Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted that fateful pass at the goal line, debate has raged over whether the decision to throw the ball was the worst call in Super Bowl history. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and an economist writing for The New York Times’ Upshot blog have defended the call. All other people on Earth—foremost among them Malcolm Butler, who weighed in on the matter as it was happening—have correctly observed that the slant pass was a terrible idea.
Perhaps the most compelling case against the call was made by the grieving family of deceased businessman Michael Vedvik. The Kent, Washington resident died of a heart attack hours after Sunday’s game. In an obituary published by Spokane’s Spokesman-Review newspaper, Vedvik’s relatives named the interception as the cause of death, writing, “We blame the Seahawks’ lousy play call for Mike’s untimely demise.” The obituary also notes that Vedvik loved “the Seahawks and life.” He’ll always have the Seahawks.
Office workers at one building along the Patriots’ victory parade put a sign in the window that read “SWIPE RIGHT FOR LEFT SHARK.” In 100 years, only the most learned scholars of early 21st-century culture will be able to decipher that image.
Katy Perry’s frolic on the beach was the high point of her performance on Sunday, embracing the tradition of halftime shows as campy pageants. As soon as those sharks started flailing their fins, it was obvious they would be the living emoji who launched a thousand memes.
And while the sharks deserve their fleeting turn in the spotlight, those bucktoothed beach balls ought to have their own 15 seconds of stardom. The moment when Perry visited with the blue-faced ball was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen on a football field, and I’ve seen Marty Mornhinweg as a head coach. So please swipe right for beach ball, too.
He stood next to Patriots running back Shane Vereen.
He rubbed the Lombardi Trophy.
These were the marvelous adventures of Ball Boy Who Isn’t Sure He’s Supposed To Be Here.
Due to a bug in the floating point unit of the Intel P5 Pentium processor, a full season of Block & Tackle columns mistakenly claimed that all final score predictions were guaranteed to be correct. The columns should have stated that all final score predictions were guaranteed to be corrected. We regress the error.
Regular season prediction record: 167-89
Playoff record: 8-3
That concludes this season of Block & Tackle. I’ve had a lot of fun writing the column, and I’ve enjoyed your comments, emails, tweets, and dead drops by the the oak tree at the northeast corner of the duck pond. (Which reminds me, CONFIDENT’L TO B.B.: RCV’D HUSH $$$ FOR LETTING “A” OUT OF “F”-BALLS, IF YOU “K” WHAT I MEAN. INTURGIDY OF GAMS EXTANT. C.G.ULATIONS ON S. BOWL.) The community that has sprung up around B&T is so gratifying. Thank you for reading and for playing along with an experiment. I’ll see you in the fall when the NFL Champion New England Patriots kick off the 2015 season.