We may need a couple of years to judge the ultimate significance of Super Bowl LII, but there’s one thing we can call right now: When Eagles fans are climbing light poles or running through Wawa or however it is they celebrate, their faces will suddenly turn serious, their mouths will tighten, and they’ll say, “You know, Cris Collinsworth had it in for us tonight.”
Let me be clear: I don’t believe that Collinsworth had it in for the Eagles. I don’t believe that bias exists in any serious way in color commentary, and I’m sure we could find pissed-off Pats fans who think Collinsworth had it in for them. But you could feel the hate forming when Collinsworth thought the Eagles should lose a couple of replay challenges Sunday night. Then everyone from Paul Lo Duca to political writer Dave Weigel to the guy who played “Chuck” came off the top rope on Twitter. When Philly.com ran a headline quipping, “Cris Collinsworth couldn’t accept the Eagles scored a touchdown,” that sealed it. Collinsworth is the anti-soundtrack of Super Bowl LII.
I know something about anti-soundtracks. I am one of the few thousand University of Texas fans who, for a time, thought the late, great Keith Jackson, in the last call of his glorious career, was rooting for USC to beat the Longhorns in the 2006 national title game. Didn’t he sound kind of pissed when Vince Young ran into the end zone? we asked each other on the message boards. And didn’t he go to a Pac-10 school? We Longhorns fans talked about that for years, and probably still talk about it.
It went the same way with Collinsworth. In the third quarter, the Eagles’ Corey Clement caught an apparent 22-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles. As he watched the replay, Collinsworth thought the ball moved in Clement’s hands, and that Clement’s left foot landed out of bounds after that. According to a transcript on Boston.com, he added: “If that ball is not loose in his arms when that left foot comes down, I give up. … I would’ve called that incomplete.” The refs confirmed it was a touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Collinsworth questioned what turned out to be Zach Ertz’s game-winning touchdown — another call that was confirmed by the refs. It was clear that Collinsworth wasn’t siding with the Pats. He was trying to figure out the NFL’s impossible catch rules in real time and anticipate how the refs would come down. His partner, Al Michaels, noted that they’ve seen plays ruled the other way during the season. Their collective attitude was: We give up.
Props to the Philadelphia Eagles for hanging in there all game despite the stiff resistance from Cris Collinsworth— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) February 5, 2018
Collinsworth is unwatchable. Ertz caught the ball at the 5... How many yards do you have to run before it’s a catch? It’s clearly a catch and run. Then he dives for the end zone! Does Collinsworth have money on the Pats!— Soren Petro (@SorenPetro) February 5, 2018
If I were a drooling-mad Eagles fan (and I am certainly not), I would have been further flummoxed when Collinsworth kept insisting that the Eagles D wasn’t going to wear down like the Falcons did last year. Cris, how do you know? Plus, that’s a jinx! That’s what apparently drove Lo Duca up the wall.
Every time Collinsworth says the Eagles won’t wear down like the Falcons, the Patriots score. #SuperBowl2018— Paul Lo Duca (@paulloduca16) February 5, 2018
It’s true that Collinsworth had an odd game by his high standards. Bill Barnwell and Chris B. Brown noted that he tagged a few play-action passes as run-pass options (RPOs). I didn’t quite understand what he was advising the Eagles to do in crunch time, and probably won’t until I watch the game again. But Collinsworth was nails on the Eagles’ trick play at the end of the first half, and rightly made a big deal of it for the rest of the game. That’s the play we’ll all be watching on highlight reels for years. And this should probably convince Eagles fans — to the extent they’re capable of cogent human thought or emotion right now — that Collinsworth is not in the tank.
The great part about declaring someone like Collinsworth an anti-soundtrack is … the Eagles just won their first Super Bowl. Their fans should be happy! But even at the most joyous sports moment of their lives, fans act like an announcer can give them the heartbreak that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick couldn’t. Ask Joe Buck about the Giants fans who still haunt his mentions to complain about his Helmet Catch call. Hell, ask Pats fans who remember Collinsworth bringing up Deflategate in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl three years ago. (I believe one of their names rhymes with Sill Bimmons.) This is the ultimate defense of the color guy, and one that happens to be true: At some level, every bonkers fan hates you equally.