Keeping Score

Bad Lights, Bad Refs, Bad Sportsmanship: 5 Lingering Super Bowl Questions

Though the big game is over, there's still plenty to talk about.

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Matt Slocum / AP

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game against the Baltimore Ravens on Feb. 3, 2013, in New Orleans.

Super Bowl XLVII is behind us, but Baltimore’s 34-31 win over San Francisco is the kind of game people will keep talking about all off-season – and beyond. (And not just because of these awful commercials) Here are five questions the sports world be debating all summer:

1. Why exactly was there a power outage?  

It was an odd Super Bowl (I’ve already written about the wonderful weirdness that was Sunday night). But things turned downright surreal in the Superdome when the lights went out early in the third quarter, causing a 34 minute delay. So what happened? According to the AP:

A joint statement from Entergy New Orleans, which provides power to the stadium, and Superdome operator SMG shed some light on the chain of events, which apparently started at the spot where Entergy feeds power into the stadium’s lines. The problem occurred shortly after Beyoncé put on a halftime show that featured extravagant lighting and video effects.

“A piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system,” the statement said. “Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue. … Entergy and SMG will continue to investigate the root cause of the abnormality.” (Read the full report)

New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said “in the coming days, I expect a full after-action report from all parties involved.”

Hopefully, such a report will solve a crucial riddle: Is Beyoncé at all to blame?

2. In the game’s deciding moments, why did San Francisco ditch the Pistol?

San Francisco trailed 34-29 in the game’s waning moments, and had the ball on Baltimore’s seven-yard-line. First down. “I was sitting there thinking there’s no way,” says Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. “There’s no way we stop them here.”

The Ravens did, thanks in part to San Francisco’s oddball play-calling. San Francisco running back Frank Gore had 110-yards rushing in the Super Bowl, and averaged a robust 5.8 yards per carry. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had run for 62 yards in the game, on 8.9 yards per carry. And yet, with the championship on the line, neither player used their legs on those final four plays.

The “Pistol” offense, with Kaepernick reading — and fooling — the defense, and deciding to hand it to Gore or run it himself, fell silent. A handoff to LaMichael James produced a two-yard gain. Then, Kaepernick tried three straight passes to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and each missed. The final one, on fourth down, was especially questionable: Kaepernick chucked it to the side of the end zone on a fade pattern, where Crabtree had little room to maneuver.

The Niners hinged their Super Bowl hopes on a jump ball, but Kaepernick overthrew it. The play never had a chance.

3. But wasn’t there holding on that final play?

San Francisco fans have a legitimate beef: although that final play from scrimmage was badly designed, Baltimore’s Jimmy Smith appeared to hold Crabtree. Should a flag have been thrown? My take: I had a pretty good view of that play from inside the Superdome, and saw that the official was in a great position to make the call. He was staring it down the whole way. I think he held the flag because it was obvious that even if Smith was nowhere near Crabtree, the receiver wasn’t going to catch that ball. Kaepernick, who was blitzed by the Baltimore defense and under pressure, just overthrew him. Good call. San Francisco fans: feel free to rail on me in the comments.

4. Was Jim Harbaugh a bad sport after the game?

The winning coach, John Harbaugh, spent the postgame praising his younger brother – Jim, coach of the 49ers. John called Jim the best coach in the NFL, talked about how he was devastated that a family member had to suffer a Super Bowl loss. Jim, on the other hand, griped about the refs. “I really want to handle this with class,” he said, “[but] there is no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and a hold on Crabtree on the last one.”

I’ll give Jim a pass on this one: he’s an intense guy, and his team just lost the Super Bowl. Brotherly love didn’t need to be on his mind. Sure they’ll bro-hug it out later.

5. But seriously, that power outage – could it cost New Orleans a future Super Bowl?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had to be sweating out the power outage Sunday night. It was eerie, and seemed to drag on forever. You couldn’t help but wonder if the NFL was about to face unprecedented disaster. Lights are not always easy to turn on, especially in a 70,000 seat stadium. What was the league going to do? Wait it out until midnight? Make everyone come back the next day? Super Bowl Sunday, finished on a Monday? The horror!

Luckily, things got sorted out just in time. But will the league risk coming back to the Superdome for the big game? At a press conference Monday morning, Goodell said the blackout would have no impact on future New Orleans bids – the city plans on bidding for the 2018 Super Bowl. I hope, and bet, that Goodell sticks to his word here. New Orleans is the perfect host city. The residents could not be friendlier, everything is convenient, the food and fun seemed to put everyone in a good mood. You can make a case for making the Big Easy the Super Bowl’s permanent home.

Prediction: the Super Bowl will be back in New Orleans. Sans blackout. As for Beyoncé …


New Orleans is a hellhole with one of the highest homicide rates in the nation, and entrenched corruption reaching to the hightest levels of city government  Anyone remember former Mayor Nagin ?  He was indicted by a grand jury on 21 federal corruption charges. If convicted on all charges, he faces more than 15 years in prison. Nagin becomes the latest mayor in the city's 295-year history to be indicted under federal corruption charges.  Goodell is crazy (and\or corrupt) if he even THINKS about having another Super Bowl in that cesspool city of corruption 

GofuucYousef 1 Like

The issue isn't whether Smith held Crabtree (he did) or whether the ball was catchable (it was possible) was the fact that Crabtree forcibly pushed Smith to the ground, hand on the helmet, before the play had even run its course. There was both offensive and defensive pass interference on the play. That's why there was a no call.


Shortly after the 108 yard kickoff return for a touchdown somewere up there Dandy Don Meridith was singing; "Turn out the lights the party's over" and that's exactly what happened.

lordofthefly 1 Like

It's time the Super Bowl as an entity received more scrutiny. It's the most manufactured, manipulative, over-hyped event on the planet. Imagine - people glued to their screens to watch ads - watch ads! - and to see an often-mediocre sporting event and halftime shows that are long on flash, distorted noise and gyrations, and short on style and talent. As for the NFL's ongoing problems of violence and seedy behavior by players, coaches and management ... they will never get resolved because there's too much money at stake.

grybak2013 1 Like

The better team won get over it!


people who pay for the adds caused the power failure the Ravens were on a roll creating a rout any more touch downs and people would turn it off


It was not just the no-call at the end of the game, but the multitude of missed calls and non-calls that changed the entire complexion of the game.  e.g.: What happens if the right call was made and the Jones runback to start the 2nd half is nullified by the blatant holding committed by the Ravens? The Ravens only scored 6 points from there on.  What happens if the 49ers are called for a late hit out of bounds? It is a shame that officiating becomes any part of the story. Even worse when it is such a big part. The integrity of the game is destroyed.  It is the fans that should turn the lights out! NFL - WAKE UP.


Good thing there was a blackout or else it would have been a blowout.


This brought back surreal memories of when I was a tourist trapped in the Superdome during Katrina and the floods.

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"


The abnormality in the system was Beyonce.


The last play was flat out holding, at least the way the game used to be played (and officiated). It seems that the NFL is falling in behind the NBA in relaxing penalty situations to the point that when a foul is called, you wonder how it was different from the 10 non calls just before it.


@newsy97 Crabtree held too, so it's a good no call.


@ChrisAllen @newsy97 Crabtree was just try to get free of the hold put on him.

What drives me up the wall is Phil Simms saying the officials didn't want to throw a flag and decide the game. Well, by not throwing a flag, didn't they do just that? (By the way, another 49'er tight end was tackled trying to get of the line on the same play.)

I just hate the whole you-can't-throw-a-flag-in-that-situation attitude. What's the point of having rules if you're going to toss them out on the play that decides the game?

By the way, I'm in no way a 49'ers fan. In fact, I'm still sore about the hurtin' they put on my favorite team earlier this season.

I just think it's time to start doing some video review of penalties/non-calls. They can be every bit as decisive in a game's outcome as a turnover or questionable touchdown call.


@ChrisAllen @newsy97 Thats absurd... he's trying to get to a spot, literally fighting to get free while undoubtably being held... holding the defensive player makes no sense unless it's a running play and he's blocking for a runner.


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