Batch: Jerome Bettis still won't admit he called 'heads-tails' during Thanksgiving coin toss


Back in 1998, one of the NFL's most controversial coin-tosses occurred during overtime of a Thanksgiving Day game between the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers and hometown Detroit Lions. With the coin in mid-air, the on-field microphone picked up Steelers star running back Jerome Bettis calling for tails, but head referee Phil Luckett insisted that he called heads, and the Lions won the toss.

Bettis and his teammate, Carnell Lake, immediately argued Luckett's decision, and after protests from Pittsburgh's sideline, Detroit was still awarded the ball. So, who actually botched the coin-toss call: Luckett or Bettis? The answer is Bettis, according to former Lions and Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch.

"We had two of our captains, Ray Roberts and Robert Porcher, and they were out there and they're like, 'Wait a minute, Jerome said heads-tails," Batch told The DA Show on Wednesday. "That's how Phil Luckett heard heads. And then Jerome's out there saying tails. Of course, we all see the highlights of them arguing, and they didn't get the ball. And as I got to Pittsburgh [in 2003], it was one of those things, of course, Coach Cowher reminded me of that.

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"But then my locker mate was Jerome Bettis. So, I got a chance to know him. Every time around Thanksgiving, I'd say, 'Jerome, it's been a while, can you be honest with me, did you say heads-tails or just say tails?' He said, 'I said tails.' Every year now, as that running joke, I always tweet out to Jerome. It's been 23 years. Can you at least admit you said heads-tails? And it's crickets on his end. So, if Jerome is listening, you better believe I'm tweeting you tomorrow."

Naturally, Luckett's coin-toss decision shifted momentum in the Lions' favor. Within the first three minutes of overtime, Detroit managed to travel 41 yards on six plays, and the thrilling drive ended with a game-winning, 42-yard field goal made by Jason Hanson. At that time, overtime was sudden-death, and Hanson's kick clinched a 19-16 win at the Pontiac Silverdome.

After the game, Luckett addressed the issue, telling pool reporters that Bettis called "heads-tails" and he honored the first thing he heard. Of course, Bettis denied Luckett's account, calling it "a bald-faced lie." The controversy actually sparked change to the league's coin-toss rule. Just four days after the game, commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced that players would call heads or tails before the toss.

The entire Steelers-Lions Thanksgiving conversation between Batch and DA can be accessed in the audio player above.

You can follow The DA Show on Twitter @DAonCBS and @CBSSportsRadio, and Tom Hanslin @TomHanslin.