It was the perfect storm. Maybe even one in a million.
The first Monday Night Football game to have a winning touchdown occur as time expires? Check.
An outrageously bad call on a nationally televised game at the height of an already much criticized referee lockout. Of course!
One of the most ambiguous calls and reviews followed by 15 minutes of awkward post game coverage although the game wasn't technically over? Sure why not!
All under the watchful scowl/eye of one of the most notorious critics of bad officiating who just so happened to be announcing the game? Hard to believe, but yes!
All of this occurring in the 1 out of 16 games ESPN actually airs and one of the largest audience lead-ins to SportsCenter they have all year? You betcha!
As Monday Night Football wrapped, SportsCenter was like a well oiled relay team passing the baton from personality to personality, each of whom sprinted to add their personal flavor of context, bewilderment, and outrage. Apologies to anyone who worked on other highlights for that episode, as the entire show was wiped in favor of whatever crafty nickname we come up with for this incident? I'm throwing out the Seattle Screw Job but I'm not married to it.
SportsCenter did a pretty marvelous job throughout dealing with the fallout of what has to be one of the most flat out awful ends to a football game in NFL history. Watching it unfold in real time, I found myself in stitches watching the body language of those who had the tough task of articulating the outrage at what transpired under the shadow of an owner initiated referee lockout, while not going completely off the deep end. Below is a look at some of the funnier moments right after MNF.
SportsCenter starts with SVP shaking his head in bewilderment.
Linda Cohn did her best, but like SVP, she had a hard time keeping a straight face.
Quickly, they went out to Jon Gruden who earlier said he was close to jumping out booth in frustration. He held this scowl for the majority of time Mike Tirico was being the classy statesman that he is.
Tirico is really stretching and selling and trying to provide context to the point where Gruden looks like he is going to blow.
Gruden's patience is wearing thin. Very thin.
But he doesn't explode to his credit when given the chance to talk. Chucky showing some guile in tempering his rage.
Can we get an expert to either fan the flames or quell the outrage? Tirico getting mileage out of former ref Gerry Austin, who is apparently 7 feet tall, while Gruden stews some more.
Gruden stares down the camera as he's had enough of the long winded explanation. It should be noted that his thumb in the picture above was twitching like a guy on the verge of going Michael Douglas Falling Down on everyone.
At a certain point, it's just too much and Gruden has to reset his hands into his pockets, adjust his jacket, and exhale some angst. Breathe Chucky…. breathe.
Finally an opportunity to talk. Gruden needs to button up the jacket again to keep the rage restrained though.
Not going to effect the lockout? CHUCKY IS TEETERING ON THE EDGE HERE.
Missing the ability to use profanity
Gruden meltdown mostly averted although he finishes with a nice flurry of anger.
But did Gruden wind up SVP now, who was more frustrated at first?
Passed to the Countdown crew. Stuart Scott didn't seem to want to talk. Dilfer was tapping his hands on the table as he waited to tear into this.
Steve Young took a deep breath trying to calm down but then also started tapping the table and looking away hoping to hold him over until his outrage could be unleashed.
These guys also had a nice 15 minutes of potential funny screengrabs, but that's it for now as sadly we're not Buzzfeed. For us this was a memorable night for the ages. Not just for football and the controversy, but also for ESPN who broadcasted the abomination and then had to cover the fallout, mainly with passionate analysts who don't take kindly to third rate referees hijacking the outcomes of games.
In the end, they did a wonderful job balancing out their disdain for what happened with their responsibility to report the fallout in real time as a line of ESPN talent quickly formed all waiting their turn like a pinata bashing at a birthday party. This included John Clayton who apparently is experimenting with a very casual new look on the heels of his ESPN commercial fame.
Despite the efforts to remain calm and cordial, the body language couldn't hide the frustration of it all. Had this not happened during a referee lockout, I'm guessing reactions would be a lot more muted. Unfortunately, the NFL pushed their luck a bit too far and the end result was a normally friendly television partner unable to hide their disgust.
A shame of a game but a gem of solid coverage from ESPN.