By Ken Reed
I’m guessing 99% of American football fans, including current and former players, watching the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots game this past Sunday believed that the Steelers’ Jesse James caught the football thrown by Ben Roethlisberger and scored what probably was the winning touchdown near the end of the game.
It was ruled a touchdown on the field but some dweeb in the replay booth claimed James didn’t actually do what we all saw him do: catch the football and score a touchdown.
Here’s the deal: James clearly made the catch with both hands and turned to try and reach the goal line. As he turned, he started to go down to the ground. Instead of simply falling to the ground on the one-yard line, he reached out with possession of the football to try and break the plane of the goal line. He accomplished that while holding the ball with two hands. That used to be a touchdown.
It still should be.
Why are the rules seemingly different for wide receivers and running backs? If the person holding the ball is a running back who after taking a handoff from the quarterback on the one-yard line jumps in the air and holds the ball across the goal line plane and is rewarded a touchdown no matter what happens when he hits the ground, why isn’t the same thing true for a wide receiver after an obvious pass completion and reach over the goal line?
In the running back scenario, why doesn’t the NFL claim the running back “didn’t complete the handoff”?
If a great majority of NFL fans don’t know what a catch is in the game of football, the league has a problem on its hands.
Here’s former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy on the play: “In flag football, high school football, college football, any place you play football other than the NFL, that’s a touchdown.”
Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky described the play like this:
“Jesse James looked like he had caught the go-ahead touchdown pass with 28 seconds remaining. He had both hands on the ball. He had two feet down. He had a knee down. He had a hip down. All before the ball crossed the plane of the goal.
“But the ball shifted and spun when James’s elbow and hands hit the turf. He did not ‘survive the ground,’ as referee Tony Corrente so memorably put it in explaining, after a long, long review, why the call was reversed and ruled incomplete.”
The play in question might have decided the NFL season. The home field advantage likely switched from Pittsburgh to New England via the overturned catch/TD call. That makes New England the probable favorite to win the Super Bowl. All because of an absurd catch rule.
The NFL definitely needs to review the catch rule in the offseason and lean on common sense when deciding what is and isn’t a catch.
Or, they could just go down to the local sports bar, show the Jesse James catch/no-catch play to 100 football fans and ask them if they think James caught the ball or not. 99 of them will say it was a catch and a touchdown.
With that, the NFL nerds can go back to their plush offices and work on something they’re actually good at: gouging the fans that built the majority of the shiny sports palaces the league’s teams play in.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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