One of the most overlooked aspects of the closing moments of Super Bowl XLIII is that Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes used the ball as a prop after his game-winning touchdown reception.
Using the football as a make-believe can of talcum powder, Santonio held the ball in his right hand and pretended to shake the powder onto his left palm.
He then threw the ball into the air, like the white cloud that LeBron James has become known for sending skyward.
Good stuff. But the move should have resulted in a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
For reasons still not known or apparent, the officials didn’t throw the flag.
“I wasn’t even thinking about it,” Holmes told me during Tuesday night’s “exclusive” (i.e., no other reporters were on the phone at the time) interview. “I wouldn’t have even cared about it if I did. It definitely wasn’t on my mind.”
But Holmes then pointed out that, if the move had drawn a flag, he “probably” would have cared later.
The chances of caring later “probably” would have increased dramatically, if the Steelers had been forced to kick off from their own 15 — and if the Cardinals had found a way in the final 35 seconds to score a touchdown.
So it’s likely that Holmes’ only consequence will be a $10,000 fine. I asked him whether he’d happily pay it.
“What do you think I’m going to do?” he said. “Fight the league?”
He was laughing when he said that. But if that flag had been thrown and if the Cardinals had scored a touchdown to win the game, Holmes might have never laughed again.