Do new claims help the case of those who think Seahawks’ Super Bowl XL loss was fixed?

Jan 31, 2019, 12:24 PM | Updated: 12:35 pm
Bill Leavy, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XL...
Bill Leavy admitted to making officiating mistakes in Super Bowl XL. (AP)

The controversial officiating in the Rams’ NFC Championship win over New Orleans brought back some sore memories for Seahawks fans, who remember Seattle falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers 13 years prior after a series of controversial calls in Super Bowl XL.

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In a 2010 interview, head referee Bill Leavy admitted to making mistakes in the game. It didn’t do much then to soothe the feelings of longtime Seattle fans, but now more than a decade (and one Super Bowl win) removed, the loss is at least easier to swallow.

A recent interview stirred up another debate about the game’s officiating, however.

Dennis Ranahan, a former oddsmaker, said in an interview with KNBR in the Bay Area that “a head official” in Super Bowl XL used to be a client of his. As Ranahan tells it, the official was looking for information through a mutual friend:

“He was looking through a guy that was a good friend of mine, and they were friends for a long time. And I said ‘Why doesn’t he call me direct?’ At the time, he was reffing college football. (My friend) says ‘Oh no, he just wants me to get the information.’ So then I’m watching that Super Bowl and thinking, ‘He’s cheating. Those guys are obviously cheating.’

“And then I’m on the radio doing a show for ESPN with Terry Cox (in 2012)… and it was before the 49ers played the Ravens in the Super Bowl. And he said, ‘Geez, we might have the biggest handle ever on a Super Bowl,’ and I went ‘Woah, wow, what was the biggest ever?’ And he said Pittsburgh-Seattle. And I went ‘Oh, geez, don’t tell me that… that seems a little fishy.'”

Fan theories claiming the game was fixed have been circulated before — and that’s to be expected when any losing team is dealt a few bad calls. But 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore aren’t buying this one. Here are their reactions to Ranahan’s claim:

Danny O’Neil

“Now, there’s a couple different things, because everybody will react to it like ‘Oh, it’s the smoking gun’ and that would point to it. He never directly talked to Leavy. He says he goes through an intermediary. Also, Leavy apologized. He talked and admitted mistakes at a point when, several years after the fact, where if he really intentionally did that — I think they missed calls. I don’t think it was part of any underlying conspiracy. And the idea that, well, it was a crooked Super Bowl because of the outcome… man, I think people want to draw way more conclusions than there are. If Leavy had done that, why would he admit to it?”

Dave Wyman

“I don’t know. But once again, you know what’s weird about being at that game? I sat in the stands because there was an overflow in the press box… and (Brock Huard) and I were mad about the outcome, but it didn’t seem like the whole thing was dominated by penalties… but then I went home and watched it and I was mad. I was really mad. But being there, I guess it didn’t really seem that egregious as far as the penalties and everything.”

Jim Moore

“It didn’t. Danny and I were there. I remember writing my stories and just going, ‘Hey, you hear what people back in Seattle are saying about the officiating?’ You thought they were bad calls, but when you were there you didn’t sense the magnitude of it. I guess this whole thing, though, I wouldn’t believe any of it, not a shred of it, if it wasn’t for Tim Donaghy and what happened in the NBA a few years back. ”

Listen to the full episode of Danny, Dave and Moore (with audio of Ranahan’s interview) here. You can hear Danny, Dave and Moore every weekday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle.

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