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Vai’s View: Golden Tate not so golden in moment of truth

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There's a popular public service announcement I see fairly regularly on every network and cable channel that draws my attention, only because of the oddity of its message given our current condition as a society.

The PSA features two high school basketball teams playing in a packed gym of students, cheerleaders, teachers and parents when an errant pass goes off someone's hands and the referee makes a call. The team with the favorable call huddles, when the boy involved in the play makes the most absurd announcement: "Coach, I touched it. It's their ball."

"Come on, Alex! Coach, talk to him!" come the cries from bewildered teammates.

The coach looks concerned but makes final instructions before telling his honest pupil, "Alex, good call."

The final shot is the team trotting back onto the court and the hero's voice saying, "Ref, it's their ball. I touched it."

I wish the PSA had run immediately following the Monday night game after the Packers were robbed of an interception and a win against Seattle in the fiasco that expedited the settlement of the NFL's labor deal with its referees this week.

I don't blame the replacement ref who made the call. Even if you've been officiating games in the SEC, that's not going to prepare you for the laser-paced action of an NFL game.

But the non-call of pass interference on Seahawks receiver Golden Tate in the end zone was as blatant as awarding him the catch when everyone else could clearly see that Packers safety M.D. Jennings had come down with the ball clutched to his chest.

Golden Tate could have used a dose of "Alex." So could his coach, Pete Carroll, who afterwards said, "The refs said it was a simultaneous catch; tie goes to the runner. Good call."

Really? I wasn't in the stadium, but I've spent half my life in NFL stadiums and I know there's an edict for scoreboard operators that if a play is favorable for the home team, they're to run it repeatedly on the Jumbotron so the crowd can encourage the ref under the hood looking at the replay. If it's unfavorable, it isn't shown, even if the network is running it repeatedly for viewers at home.

I'll give Carroll the benefit of the doubt that the stadium operator didn't show the replay to the partisan crowd and maybe he didn't get a clean look from the sideline.

Oh wait ... this is the same Pete Carroll who fled USC for Seattle just before the NCAA dropped the hammer for a litany of violations that left the Trojans on probation. Never mind.

Perhaps it's just old fashioned to think that the modern athlete will ever reverse a call out of simple honesty. The notion is quaint, when you think about it.

There's a popular refrain among professional athletes that is most often attributed to the Oakland Raiders that goes, "If you're not cheating ... you're not trying hard enough." It's always said with a wink and a nod, followed by a few knowing chuckles.

Just as I was exasperated and given up on the quaint notion that professional athletes might ever show integrity in the heat of battle, along comes German soccer legend Miroslav Klose playing for Napoli in a European match this week. Early in a game against Lazio, Klose was credited with the first goal of the game off a corner kick. As his teammates celebrated, Klose approached the referee and admitted that he had made the goal using his hand. The refs immediately disallowed the goal and Napoli and Klose were shut out 3-0.

Ironically, Klose's admission came in the same stadium where in the 1986 World Cup, Argentina's Diego Maradona scored the famous "Hand of God" goal against England in the quarterfinals. The infamously unrepentant Maradona said of the handball goal that "it was a little from the head of Maradona and a little from the Hand of God."

Golden Tate's famous non-catch will live on because of the power of video, but imagine what might have been had he confessed he hadn't made the catch and the interception and the win was rightly Green Bay's? He certainly would have lived up to his name.