Imagine if you will, an alternate ending for the most horrendously-officiated Super Bowl games in history, Super Bowl XL.
When we use hindsight to view the past, one or two incidents can be identified that would have changed the sequence of events.
Imagine what the alternate future for the Seattle Seahawks would have been if the officials had properly called (or not called) one or two blown calls. The focus of this article is not to complain about each and every call, but to examine what could have happened if the officials had gotten it right from the start.
The Plays That Changed the Game
Instead of running through the numerous miscalled penalties against the Seahawks, I ask you to focus on only two plays that would have changed the landscape of the Seahawks' future.
Play 1: Taken away touchdown—Darrell Jackson gets a "flaky" push-off penalty on an apparent 16-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Had the call not been made or if defensive pass interference been called, then the Seahawks start the game with a 7-0 lead and the Steelers are down before they ever get on offense.
Play 2 Phantom touchdown—The Ben Roethlisberger "mystery" touchdown that never happened would have set up a fourth and goal for the Steelers. Until that point, the Steelers were pathetic, unable to move the ball with the exception of a lucky toss to Hines Ward that set up the "phantom touchdown" that never was. Without that, the Seahawks go into halftime up 3-0, even with the earlier call against Jackson that nullified his touchdown.
The Shift of Momentum
The Seahawks dominated the Steelers in the first half of Super Bowl XL, stifling Jerome Bettis and nullifying Roethlisberger. The Seahawks' offense drove down field easily on the first drive, showing the inability of the Steelers' defense to slow down league MVP Shaun Alexander and the rest of the Seattle offense.
The two controversial plays of the first half definitely gave the Steelers an emotional lift. They were manhandled in every sense of the word and somehow were up 7-3 at halftime.
Go back in your mind to Ford Field in Detroit on Feb. 5, 2005; can you hear the theme from The Twilight Zone in the background?
Seattle drives down the field on their first possession and in the words of John Madden, "Boom, now that's the way to start a game!" Touchdown Seahawks!
Super Bowl XL starts with a convincing Seahawks drive that silences critics and naysayers around the country, ending with the Seahawks victorious.
As the final whistle blows, a cooler of orange Gatorade is dumped on head coach Mike Holmgren. On the other side, a disgruntled and obviously crushed Bill Cowher huddles with his wife and daughters, tears streaming down his face.
Loud mouth Joey Porter kneels on Ford Field, shocked that Jeremy Stevens was able to snag three touchdown passes.
Jerome Bettis sobs uncontrollably as he bids farewell to the fans, waving "I love the Bus" signs around the stadium.
Matt Hasselbeck is announced as the MVP of Super Bowl XL, thanks to his 348 yard, four touchdown passing performance.
Shaun Alexander celebrates with the entire offensive line, posing with the Lombardi Trophy. Steve Hutchinson vows to stay with the Seahawks to bring another Super Bowl win to Seattle.
In the Seahawks 2006 campaign, expectations are high, but the Seahawks deliver with a resounding 15-1 season.
Alexander receives back-to-back league MVP honors behind the blocking of four Pro Bowl offensive linemen. Alexander defies the myth of the "Madden Curse" and runs for 2,158 yards and 31 rushing touchdowns.
Coach Holmgren retires after bringing his second Super Bowl victory to Seattle, content to never return to coaching again.
The years that follow become known as the "Golden Years" in Seattle as the Seahawks begin an era of dominance that is unmatched in the annals of professional football.
Of course, this future never happened in our universe...we live in the universe of bumbled officiating and blind Steeler Nation zombies that only see Big Ben "breaking the plane."
So for now, Seahawks fans, rejoice in the future of "what if" scenarios.