Golden Tate might never see — or hear — another outpouring of attention to rival tonight in Green Bay, Wis.
“It’s something about being booed that I think is a sign of respect,” the Seattle receiver said this week. “If (they) are going to waste energy on booing you, then obviously they know about you.”
Green Bay fans have made it clear they remember Tate and his last-second touchdown (interception/interference) on “Monday Night Football” last Sept. 24 at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks came away with the upset win, prompting commentator Jon Gruden to proclaim: “Tate gets away with one of the most blatant offensive pass interference calls I’ve ever seen.”
The controversial ruling on national television seemed to hasten resolution of the NFL’s labor dispute with its regular officials, and a reported $300 million swapped sides in Las Vegas when the call went Seattle’s way. The Packers finished third in the NFC, and they went on to lose at San Francisco in a divisional playoff game.
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For Tate, the noise started early this week when social media turned decidedly anti-social with cranky Wisconsin tweeters jamming his timeline.
Lost in the controversy over the ruling and the not-entirely-unreasonable outrage of Packers Nation was the fact that the catch was impressively athletic at a crucial moment and gave Tate the first real national opportunity to live up to his Twitter handle — @ShowtimeTate.
Tate has answered some of the tweets with good nature.
“(I’m) just having fun with it, just trying to lighten the mood,” he said. “That’s just my personality. At first I was kind of frustrated hearing all the hate. … I couldn’t help that call. What else can I do other than have fun with it?”
Yes, it’s old news, but psychologically it might have been a turning point of the 2012 season. Remember the context. The Packers had been 15-1 the previous season, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the league MVP.
But the Seattle defense, behind Chris Clemons, sacked Rodgers eight times in the first half, and the Seahawks took a 7-0 lead on a 41-yard touchdown pass to Tate — one that fans probably have forgotten in the stormy aftermath.
Debatable as it might be, Tate’s catch on the final play to secure the 14-12 win was the first bit of big-play magic that helped the Seahawks power into the playoffs.
Can belief in the possibility of that sort of thing be contagious?
“Absolutely,” Tate said. “That just shows that the game is not over until there is zero seconds on the clock. I think we have guys that can break games at any moment.”
Tate particularly saw it as a reminder: “I can go out there and change the game.”
Which he did. He caught a 51-yard pass late in a comeback win over New England, and came up with a stunning catch-and-run TD to give the Seahawks the lead with 24 seconds to go in an eventual overtime win at Chicago.
Last year turned into the best of Tate’s three seasons with the Seahawks. He finished with 45 catches, seven for TDs. The most important development, though, might have been earning the trust of quarterback Russell Wilson.
“The relationship between Golden and me is so close,” Wilson said. “He’s a tremendous football player and a great person. He has a knack for making great plays, and he has a knack for attacking the football. He makes people miss when he catches the football. His yards after the catch are probably off the charts. So, as a quarterback throwing to him, you trust him to make a play; you trust him to make a first down when we need one, and he does a great job of that.”
Tate eventually grew tired of the debate over the so-called “Fail Mary” or “Golden Fleece.” Catch or no catch, “I see it as a big play in a critical moment to win the game,” he said.
No question; it was a big play, and the Seahawks won.
The fans at Lambeau Field will have the chance to offer belated rebuttal Friday evening.
And once again, it should provide surprisingly compelling drama for an exhibition game.
After all, with Tate on the field, it’s always Showtime.