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Thursday, June 3, 2010
Controversial? These still stir debate

By Tim MacMahon
ESPNDallas.com

The sports world is buzzing about a blown call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, a former Rangers prospect, a perfect game.

The Dallas sports scene has seen plenty of controversial calls throughout the years -- some hurting the local teams, some helping them.

Here, in no particular order, is one man's list of the five most controversial calls in Dallas sports history:

Super Bowl XIII: Pass interference or incidental contact?

Benny Barnes and Lynn Swann
Cowboys cornerback Benny Barnes was called for pass interference after Steelers receiver Lynn Swann ran into him while trying to catch a pass. The play led to the NFL's rule on incidental contact.
Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith's drop of a would-be touchdown pass might be the most memorable play of Super Bowl XIII. But for those Cowboys, the most maddening play was a pass interference penalty called on cornerback Benny Barnes to set up the touchdown that gave the Steelers a two-score lead in the fourth quarter.

With 9:05 remaining, Pittsburgh receiver Lynn Swann fell to the ground after running into Barnes while trying to chase down a deep ball. Seconds later, a flag came flying from the middle of the field thrown by field judge Fred Swearingen after the official closest to the play made no call.

The play prompted the NFL to create the incidental contact rule months later. But it resulted in a crucial 33-yard gain for the Steelers  and a bunch of curse words from the Cowboys.

"Swann ran right up my back," Barnes told reporters in the locker room. "When I saw the flag, I knew it was on him. I couldn't believe the call. Maybe [Swearingen] needs glasses. Maybe he was for Pittsburgh."

2006 NBA Finals: Did Dirk foul Dwyane Wade in Game 5?

Many Mavericks fans, including the man who owns the team, will forever believe that referees handed the Miami Heat the 2006 NBA championship.

They point to Dwyane Wade's parade to the free throw line as the primary reason that premature parade plans in downtown Dallas were canceled. One play in particular stands out: Dirk Nowitzki getting whistled for the foul that sent Wade to the line for the deciding points of Game 5, when the Heat seized the series lead.

If Dirk made contact after Wade's relentless drive to the hoop, it was minimal. It definitely wasn't as obvious as Wade's push-off on Jason Terry earlier in the play. Referee Bennett Salvatore ignored the push-off but blew his whistle from near half court to send Wade to the line for his 24th and 25th free throws of the game, which matched the Mavs' total.

The play prompted an on-court postgame tirade from Mark Cuban, leading commissioner David Stern to fine him $250,000 for "several acts of misconduct."

Todd Dodge
Replays showed OU intercepted UT's Todd Dodge with seconds to play. Officials disagreed, leading to a tying field goal as time expired.

1984: Texas-Oklahoma tie

Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer didn't like a few calls during the drive that allowed No. 1 Texas to tie Oklahoma in the 1984 meeting between the Red River rivals. He was especially irate about an interception in the end zone that was ruled an incompletion with seconds remaining.

Replays showed that Sooners defensive back Keith Stanberry picked off Texas quarterback Todd Dodge's pass. The officiating crew, which was split between the Southwest Conference and Big Eight, ruled that Stanberry was juggling the ball as he went out of bounds.

After Texas made a 32-yard field goal to tie the score as time expired, Switzer tripped over his headset wires as he chased after the officiating crew.

"I can't get a call," Switzer said after throwing a towel to the floor in the locker room. "All the calls made against us there at the last were by Southwest Conference officials."

1999 Stanley Cup finals: Hull's skate in the crease?

Brett Hull
Was Brett Hull's skate in the crease? Officials said no, and the Stars won the Stanley Cup.
The winning goal in the 1999 Stanley Cup finals was scored 14:51 into the third overtime of Game 6. There's never been a more controversial goal in NHL history.

Brett Hull put in the game-winner, touching off a massive celebration as the Stars won their first and only Stanley Cup.

While Hull put in a rebound off Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek, his skate was in and out of the crease during the time that he gained possession of the puck, kicked it to his stick and scored.

NHL officials ruled that Hull's skate was not in the crease when he kicked the puck to himself and that his possession of the puck took precedence over anything else that happened, including his skate in the crease before the goal was scored.

To this day, Buffalo fans don't buy the explanation.

The NHL has since changed its rules on skates in the crease. Now, a goal is disallowed by a skate in the crease only if the player was deemed to kick the puck in or interfere with the goaltender.

1975 NFC playoffs: Did Pearson push off on Hail Mary?

Drew Pearson
Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson said he didn't deliberately push Vikings cornerback Nate Wright, but he did make contact with him during the famed "Hail Mary" play.
It's a no-call that Minnesota Vikings fans still complain about, insisting that Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson pushed cornerback Nate Wright to create enough room to catch the original Hail Mary pass.

"I used that swim move that receivers use to get inside position on defensive backs," Pearson recently told ESPNDallas.com, describing the play that gave the Cowboys a 17-14 upset. "There was contact with Nate Wright, but there was no deliberate push."

For a moment, Pearson wasn't sure whether the officials agreed with him. He saw a flash of a bright-colored object fly by him as he stood in the end zone of Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium. He realized it was an orange, not a penalty flag, when the object rolled after hitting the ground.

That was far from the only thing hurled by angry Vikings fans after Roger Staubach's 50-yard heave. Several liquor bottles rained down from the stands, one of which knocked field judge Armen Terzian unconscious.

Tim MacMahon covers the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.