Sunday, January 11, 2015

Catch or Not?

Not the best video angle, but most clearly demonstrates Bryant caught it at the 5 yard line.

There were some epic football games recently. No matter what I do, sports are in my blood. The particular play that sticks in my mind is this catch that was reversed and called incomplete on a 4th & 2. The details are great with this play. The strategy is epic. The Cowboys have plenty of 2 yard plays they could've called with high percentage of success...but they went for the home run and Bryant makes contact with the ball in both hands at the 5 yard line. For those challenged by Imperial measurement that's 15 feet away from the goal line. At first, they awarded the catch and spotted the ball initially at the 2 foot line. Then it was challenged and reversed. So Bryant managed to carry the ball 13 feet without catching it? That's what the refs would have us believe? 13 Feet and he failed to possess the ball because he never made a football move, never completed the process, in 13 feet??  Naw!

Games with officials can be heartbreaking because this one play was important. A game is comprised of every play, not merely one, but one play is still one play and in this situation it's a big one. As a former pick-up game athlete with bad knees and dirty pants I don't see how a person can carry a ball for 13 feet without ever possessing it. Did he not catch the ball at the 15 and then fumble it at the 2 ft line? OR the conclusion is that he merely touched the ball at the 15 and then juggled it for 13 feet? Seriously? I don't like the Cowboys even though I was a Texan for a brief spell. But how can you justify saying he carried it for 13 feet before finally failing to possess it?

I guess the momentum of his running carried him those 13 feet before he possessed it. But that's two lengths of his whole body. So I still have a problem with them saying he carried it, without possessing it for 13 feet and never made a football move. I think the football move involved carrying it for 13 feet and trying to score with the football. He wasn't juggling it, but when he reached out finally the ball hit the ground and he lost control of it, 13 feet, nearly 5 yards, after he had caught it. So, it wasn't the catch that was in question, it was the fumble.

But the conclusion ruled and the Cowboys lost possession. The lesson is hard to take but it amounts to two points:
1) Go with high percentage plays when the game is on the line
2) Once you've caught the ball inside the 5 then go ahead and keep both hands on it. You'll score when the next play runs it in. Keep both hands on the ball and don't try to score because the game has gotten that picky about possession. The days are gone when the naked eye won the day. Now officials have HD and super slow motion and super zoom and if the ball moves and you have been in the air and tumbling the whole time then they will decide that you actually were in the process of catching the ball for 13 feet and ultimately didn't catch it. That's the conclusion because that's what the video shows. It was an acrobatic catch, which means you must do something non-acrobatic before losing control of the ball, and Bryant never did anything non-acrobatic. The whole catch was acrobatic up until the ball came loose. So it was never a catch.

I would maintain the non-acrobatic move was him turning around and lunging for the end zone, but the refs seem to be thinking that was part of the acrobatics. No, Bryant is a superhuman. He can't be judged like the rest of us. The catch was already accomplished while most of us were catching flies with our mouths, and Bryant was trying to get the touchdown and that was the proof he had made the catch. Otherwise, the rule forces Bryant to catch the ball and not move at all until he is downed on the 1 yard line...instead of catching it and turning for the touchdown, like all superhuman receivers would do.*

My sympathies, because this was a great playground catch and all the players in the world salute Bryant with a touchdown sign. He caught it, was tackled, and the ground caused the fumble so it's down on the 1 yard line. Incredible. But we can't go back in time and see if Green Bay takes the lead again so there's nothing to be done. It's a game of inches.

I salute all the players of this weekend's games. The season started out about as bad as any season I can remember. Only my NFL addiction forced me to watch the games I could find. Anyone with dignity turned their backs on the sport. The NFL needs to clean up its act, and by making it this far at least they proved they have the will power to make a clean game not full of abusers and junkies and murderers. Whether they apply that will power is another question but I know their hearts are strong and they merely need to get their priorities straight. The game itself is going to be good no matter how it is played, but please maintain some perspective. Do it for the kids.

*Per the rulebook, Bryant had to maintain possession “through the process” of making contact with the ground, so when the ball came loose once it hit the turf at the 1, even though he definitely had possession of it before that, officials were required to rule it incomplete, because he hadn't touched the ground yet. So, this goes back to training camp and practicing acrobatic catches in the air while focusing on keeping the ball off the ground as you hit the ground.

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