The Blame Game: Who’s Responsible for the NFL’s Convoluted Catch Rules?

USP NFL: DIVISIONAL ROUND-DALLAS COWBOYS AT GREEN S FBN USA WI

Let’s face it: The NFL’s rules on what constitutes a legal catch are ruining football (along with the many different interpretations of those rules by the referees).

There was a time when amazing, acrobatic, physics-defying catches by super-talented wide receivers would be the most exciting part of watching a football game.

When a once-in-a-longtime play is unfolding in football, you don’t want to have to use your brain to be analyzing every little detail of the play and mentally matching those details up with the rulebook. You want it to be an emotional experience that makes you scream, jump out of your seat or throw whatever electronic device is closest to you (depending on which team you’re rooting for).

But now we have no choice but to be skeptical of a completed catch on these brilliant plays because the NFL hates us.

And why would the league bother changing the rule? After all, we’re talking about the NFL even more because of the bad officiating and stupid rulebook. The NFL has turned into a real sport + the allure of drama and soap opera-y plots off the field a la professional wrestling. That’s a recipe for billions of dollars.

So if we can’t get the NFL to simplify its rules, don’t we at least want to know how all this catch/non-catch bullshit came into existence in the first place? Who’s really responsible for these constant headaches we deal with almost weekly at this point?

Many experts will say it all started in 1999 with the “Burt Emanuel Rule”. Emanuel was a receiver for the Tampa Bay Bucs, and his team was facing the St. Louis Rams in that season’s NFC Championship Game. Towards the end of the game, with the Bucs losing 11-6, Emanuel caught a key 2nd down pass to keep Tampa’s hopes alive. But then the refs reviewed the catch, which no one could figure out the reason for doing, and determined it was an incompletion because the tip of the ball touched the ground while Emanuel was securing the ball. Two plays later, the Bucs’ chances were ruined and the Rams were on to the Super Bowl. During the offseason, the league changed the rule so that the ball could now touch the ground during a legal catch as long as the receiver maintained control. But this apparently brought about a lot of gray area, which is the same gray area the refs tend to bungle on a weekly basis now. It’s all here in this fantastic explanation.

But I’d like to throw out a different theory today. If you’ll bare with me for just another five minutes or so, I can prove definitively that this entire situation is the city of Cleveland’s fault.

First of all, the root cause of all these problems doesn’t reside with a single rule change. It goes back much further than that. You know what would immediately wipe away all this controversy about catching a football? If the forward pass never came into the NFL in the first place! Think about it. No forward pass = no players having the burden of catching a pass. It’s so obvious. So let’s go waaaaay back in history on the forward pass.

Please follow along as I use Wikipedia as my source for all quotes you’re about to see:

  • “1905 had been a bloody year on the gridiron; the Chicago Tribune reported 18 players had been killed and 159 seriously injured.”
    • Wait just a second. 18 people DIED while playing football in 1905? What the hell? I’m going to have to dig deeper into that at some point, but not today. But that fact stopped me in my tracks for about 20 minutes while researching this.
  • “There were movements to outlaw the game, but U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt personally intervened and demanded that the rules of the game be reformed.”
    • Thank you, Teddy. I wish there was some way I could personally repay you for saving football.
  • First legal pass: “On September 5, 1906, St. Louis University’s Bradbury Robinson’s first attempt at a forward pass fell incomplete and resulted in a turnover under the 1906 rules.”
    • Hold up. In 1906, any pass that was incomplete was a turnover? And we think the current rules are effed up?
  • “St. Louis coach Eddie Cochems is to forward passing what the Wright brothers are to aviation and Thomas Edison is to the electric light, according to historians.”
    • So all of this controversy over Dez Bryant’s non-catch, Megatron’s non-catch…it’s all this guy’s fault!
  • “This is disputed by historian David Nelson and others, who concluded that the first forward passes were thrown on Christmas Day 1905 in a match between two small colleges in Kansas.”
    • Ohh, so that’s why we actually celebrate Christmas. Because it’s the birthday of modern football. That makes so much more sense than what the Catholics celebrate Christmas for.
  • “According to Nelson, in that Christmas Day game, one team completed three passes and the other team completed two.”
    • Ahh, so your classic Titans-Jaguars game. Got it.
  • “That same St. Louis team led by Cochems was the first team to use the forward pass as a central feature to the offensive scheme as they compiled an undefeated 11-0 season in which they outscored opponents by a combined score of 407 to 11.”
    • Yeah, but did they win the Super Bowl? Because if not, they are HUGE CHOKERS!
  • “In 1913, Notre Dame head coach Jesse Harper showed how the forward pass could be used by a smaller team to beat a bigger one, first utilizing it to defeat rival Army. After it was used on a national stage in this game, the forward pass rapidly gained popularity.”
    • Of course this is Notre Dame’s fault! Everything’s Notre Dame’s fault!
  • “The first forward pass in a professional football game may have been thrown in an Ohio League game played on October 25, 1906. This Ohio League was the predecessor of today’s NFL. The quarterback of the Massillon Tigers, one of pro football’s first franchises, completed a short pass on that day while his team was on its way to winning 61-0 over the hapless West Virginia Mountain Staters.”
    • First of all, how dare they run up the score like that? Where’s the sportsmanship?!?!
    • More importantly, do you know where Massillon, Ohio, is located? Yep, just a little bit south of Cleveland. No wonder that city has endured the shittiest sports luck over the past century. It’s karma! They brought the forward pass into professional football. They’re responsible for all these stupid rules about catching, non-catching, two feet inbounds, toe drags, “acts common to the game”. Fucking Cleveland did this to us!
    • Or, I’m willing to split the responsibility between Cleveland and Notre Dame, if that’s what you’d prefer.

So there you have it. If it wasn’t for these barbarians mutilating such a beautiful sport, we’d probably still be treated to awesome games like this in 2015:

Movie Review: Inherent Vice (or was I just hallucinating?)

inherent vice

Inherent Vice is one of two movies I’ve been chomping at the bit to see ever since the trailer was released months ago (the other being American Sniper). And it most certainly did not disappoint.

First, the boring stuff: Inherent Vice is a crime/whodunit story that mixes equal parts comedy, drama and trippy insanity. It was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and it’s based on a novel by Thomas Pynchon. And it feels like everyone in Hollywood has a starring or supporting role in the film.

The twisting, looney plot unfolds as a 1970s private investigator, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), gets pulled in a thousand different directions while trying to find the whereabouts of his missing ex-girlfriend and her new lover, a real estate mogul named Mickey Wolfmann. The film begins with the ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay, visiting Doc at his home in a little California beach town and asking for his help in stopping a plot by Wolfmann’s current wife to have Wolfmann committed to an insane asylum so she can take all his money.

Then Shasta goes missing. Then someone murders one of Wolfmann’s bodyguards. Then, in seemingly a completely separate plot, a woman contacts Doc about her missing husband, who’s actually in hiding while working as a police informant.

And then an organization (or maybe it’s just a boat?) called the Golden Fang comes into play because they’re smuggling drugs into the United States.

There is so much more to this movie that I can’t even begin to dive into. There seem to be unlimited plots, side stories, twists & turns, and all of it is supposed to tie into the main story. Once again, that main story is Doc trying to find Wolfmann and Shasta after they disappear (you’ll need to remind yourself of this several times during the movie).

Now for the fun stuff: This movie is The Big Lebowski on a mix of speed and mushrooms. Seriously, if you close your eyes at different times during the film, you’d swear you’re hearing the characters of Lebowski. Doc is a ’70s version of The Dude, if only The Dude had more motivation and a more extensive use of drugs.

I know the unrolling of the different plots I mentioned above is confusing, and it’s just as tough to follow in the movie. But it doesn’t matter. You can keep up with the major twists & turns, get lost in the subplots and side stories, and still laugh your ass off.

I haven’t even talked about the LAPD Lieutenant “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), Deputy DA Penny Kimball (Reese Witherspoon) or a dentist played by Martin Short. But they’re all there. And they all try to push their agendas on Doc, who seems to do a lot more wandering around aimlessly for information than hunting with a purpose like a real detective.

When we first meet Doc, it’s impossible to expect that he’s a competent PI. He’s a hippie dopehead who can’t seem to keep up with anything. He tries to jot down notes in his notebooks as someone’s asking for his help, but usually he just writes something like “not hallucinating.” Is he talking about the person presenting him with a case? Or is he reminding himself that he’s not currently hallucinating?

I can’t stress enough how wacky, scatterbrained and bizarre this movie is…but I mean that in the best way possible. Seeing Inherent Vice was one of the most fun times I’ve had at the movies in years.

You should see this movie if: You like the idea of a crazier Big Lebowski; you like stoner movies; you’re a fan of crime stories and 1970s drug culture; you love Paul Thomas Anderson films; you want to see an epic performance by Joaquin Phoenix that I think should earn him Best Actor consideration at The Oscars; you appreciate films with confusing plots that will force you to watch it at least a second and third time to really nail down what the hell happened; you’re looking for something to watch while really REALLY high.

You should not see this movie if: You’re a narc and despise everything the ’70s culture stood for; you don’t like your comedy to include a side dish of violence; you don’t want to see great acting and silly plots; sex and drugs on the big screen scares or embarrasses you; you hate all those actors I mentioned above; you can’t handle being confused during or after a movie.

Like I said, this was one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I’ve had, so there should be no surprise that I’m ranking this high on the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS). I’m going with a solid 9 out of 10. Not only is it fantastic the first time, but I imagine any time it comes on HBO or the other movie channels later this year, I will stop what I’m doing and at least watch parts of it.

If you missed my movie review from earlier this week and want to read about a film that’s on the opposite end of the RWS spectrum, check out my thoughts on The Gambler here.