ABQ Journal – Feb 08, 2006 – Rick Wright – I don’t know Bill Leavy personally, but what I know about him, I like. And respect. Leavy, the much-vilified referee in Sunday’s Super Bowl, was the Mountain West Conference head of football officials from 1999-2002.

In my limited dealings with him, I found him to be a stand-up guy� quick to return phone calls and as frank and forthright as the conference would allow him to be.

Plus, he’s certifiably an outstanding game officialâ€â€? named to work Super Bowl XL, as were his six on-field colleagues, because he graded the highest of all NFL referees (with the required experience) during the 2005 season.

Thus, it’s sad to see and hear Leavy maligned so relentlessly for a handful of bad, or at least disputed, calls in Sunday’s game.

This is not to say Leavy and his crew didn’t have a crummy day in Detroit. Like several of the players and one of the head coaches, they did.

The ugliest call by far, if not the most damaging, was the flag thrown on Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for tackling the guy who had just intercepted his pass in the fourth quarter. Evidently, an official thought Hasselbeck had cut down a would-be blocker instead of the interceptor.

Though it’s likely Pittsburgh would have scored on the ensuing drive regardless, those extra 15 yards made it all too easy for the Steelers to gain the field position they needed to make the Antwaan Randle El-to-Hines Ward flea-flicker work.

This wasn’t a judgment call; it was a case of mistaken identity. If that’s not reviewable, it should be.

Almost as bad, even more damaging and probably Leavy’s direct responsibility as referee, was the preceding offensive-holding call that nullified an 18-yard Hasselbeck-to-Jerramy Stevens pass that would have given the Seahawks a first down at the Pittsburgh 1-yard line.

On two other controversial calls, however, Leavy and his crew are being flagged in error.

Did Seahawks wide receiver Darrell Jackson push off on Steelers safety Chris Hope before catching what appeared to be a touchdown pass? Yes, he did.

Had back judge Bob Waggoner not thrown a flag, and had Seattle gone on to win, it’s the Steelers who’d be crying foul.

Regarding Leavy’s decision not to reverse Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown dive late in the second quarter, the operative phrase is “indisputable evidence.” It was a question of inches, maybe millimeters, and Leavy did the right thing.

Leavy and his colleagues are big boys. When they have a bad game on American sport’s biggest stage, they should expect to hear about it.

But, please, don’t try to tell me officiating cost the Seahawks the Super Bowl. Did Leavy or any of his crew drop a pass? Throw an interception? Give up a 75-yard touchdown run? Bite on a trick play like a starving striped bass?

Why anyone� coaches, players, fans and/or media� expects perfection from sports officials and not themselves, I have yet to figure out.

Personally, I lost any right to complain when I picked the Seahawks to win for absolutely the wrong reason: Seattle coach Mike Holmgren’s “cool game-management skills.”

Cool game-management skills? If FEMA had been calling the plays for the Seahawks at the end of each half, the results couldn’t have been any worse.

“We knew it was going to be tough playing against the Steelers,” a frustrated Holmgren said on Monday. “But I didn’t know we were going to have to take on the guys in the striped shirts, too.”

Hey, Mike, I’m sure you awoke Monday feeling you and your teamâ€â€? while not playing your bestâ€? gave it all you had.

I’m sure Bill Leavy feels the same.