This is going to be an attempt to write a post where we don’t trash the officiating. But I already know this post is going to become something where we trash the officiating. So I’ll come out and say it: The lead official for Super Bowl LIV is Bill Vinovich. But trust me, it could be worse. We’ll get to that.
So Bill Vinovich. What’s the deal? Well, you might have heard about a certain rule change in 2019 that involved pass interference being reviewed. That caused all sorts of uproar. So what does that rule change have to do with Vinovich? Oh, just about everything. Because this is what kickstarted the lobbying for it:
And that everyone is why that PI rule was added to the reviews. Just so you’re following along, Vinovich’s crew was the group in charge of that mess. So this year, they gave him a Super Bowl to run.
We’ll joke about bias in officiating, but in reality, that’s nonsense. There are always bad calls and incompetence, however, and while I’ll let you argue the latter, the former has one of the worst in that above video. If the 49ers find themselves depending on the refs, they probably should look to how they got in that position in the first place, but egregious acts like that are not inspiring in close games any way you look at it. I know! We’ll just have Kyle Shanahan predict when this happens, and he can help those good officials out. What a guy.
OK, OK, enough jokes. There is some good out of this: the big thing about Vinovich’s crew is it will be the first time that a Super Bowl has a majority-minority crew officiating. Five African-American officials will be on the field. Per the folks over at Football Zebras, only three games — regular or postseason — have had a majority of minority officials. This will be the first game in league history to have five African-American officials on the field.
In case you’re wondering about the rules of being an official for the Super Bowl, I took Football Zebras’ explanation of it:
A referee must have at least 5 years of seniority, worked 3 years at the referee position, and worked a playoff game as a referee in a previous postseason. The other members of the Super Bowl crew must have a Conference Championship game on their résumé (or received on-field assignments in 3 of the last 5 postseasons) in addition to being at least a 5-year veteran.
So there might be some skepticism given the history of this guy, but I’m here to tell you, it could be worse. Much worse. In the immortal words of Yoda, there is another.
There’s always Jerome Boger who could come in and ruin our 49ers fans’ lives yet again. Those of you who don’t remember the name definitely remember the game. That was Super Bowl XLVII, where the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens. The man in charge of the stripes there was none other than Boger, and that was a disaster. Many remember the pass interference/holding no-call on Michael Crabtree to seal the game, but that call is the last thing I think of (there is no way a flag like that is going to decide the Super Bowl). I think more of the blatant helmet to helmet hit that no one stepped in on, the Ravens putting their hands on (and shoving) an official during a second-quarter brawl and not getting ejected, a blindside block on Randy Moss not called, and a double team on Bruce Miller that held him down and allowed a Ravens kickoff return for a touchdown.
If that wasn’t enough, Boger returned the following season to follow up that craptastic performance with another poor showing against the then-St. Louis Rams. All I can say is that crew struggled not giving the 49ers a touchdown despite the numerous times they broke the plane. Ironically, they said that one such Crabtree touchdown was NOT a touchdown, but downed at the 1. We live in a different world now than in 2014, because that same thing happened to Julio Jones in 2019 here at Levi’s, but they gave him the score.
To be fair, Boger was not the reason the 49ers lost that Super Bowl. Bad playcalling cost the 49ers that game. LaMichael James fumbling the ball cost the 49ers that game. It’s still something that stings, however, and the two (officiating, play) are not mutually exclusive.
My point is, it could be a heck of a lot worse in this than Vinovich. Probably. Possibly. Maybe.