The Immaculate Deception at 50

50 years ago on this very day, a day that will live in infamy…in Pittsburgh it is referred to as the Immaculate Reception. Members of the Raider Nation know it as the Immaculate Deception.

Tomorrow night the NFL will pay a tribute to this travesty as the Raiders are again at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

My heart goes out to the entire Steelers family. The shocking death of Franco Harris right before this game is a much bigger tragedy than any play in any football game. Yet even amidst pain and suffering, we have an obligation to fulfill our responsibilities. For those who bled silver and black, it is to root for the Raiders and tell the truth about 50 years ago.
The Immaculate Reception should have been nullified. The Raiders were cheated out of a playoff victory. There were 3 problems on the play.

1) Frenchy Fuqua touched the football, not Jack Tatum. Tatum leveled Fuqua. Tatum could not go through Fuqua’s body to touch the ball. An obscure rule at the time that was later repealed clearly stated that if a ball bounces off one offensive player to another without a defensive player touching it in between, the catch is invalid as an illegal touch.

2) Franco Harris supposedly caught the ball at his shoetips, but there is no angle showing he actually caught it. The bottom half of the ball is not in display. If that ball hit the ground, it is not a catch. There are witnesses on the field who saw the bottom tip of the ball hit the ground.

3) There was an illegal block in the back. Phil Villiapiano was clearly clipped. That should have been a penalty. It was never called.

4) John Madden said he overheard the referee talking to the Pittsburgh Police Department after the play. The officer wanted to know how many police officer PPD could provide if the referee reversed the touchdown. The police said they could provide 6. The refe asked if that meant 600 or 6,000. He was again told 6. He said that 60,000 fans would riot and he needed more than 6. One more time, he was told 6. So the ref said, “In that case, 6 for Pittsburgh,” came back on the field, raised his hands in the air to signal the touchdown.

Last week the Raiders got a tiny measure of vengeance…but not justice…for the Tuck Rule…tomorrow night they must do the same for the Immaculate Deception.

Final note: I asked Steelers great Lynn Swann back in 2008 who would win a game between the 1970s Raiders and Steelers in the year 2008. Swann smiled and said, “Guys would throw down their walkers and get out of their wheelchairs to play that game.”


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