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Quick Inside Slant: Week 4

Impressions of the 2012 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

By rule, the final play of Monday night’s game actually was a simultaneous catch resulting in a touchdown for the offense.

There’s a dirty secret that sportscasters, commentators and analysts don’t want you to know about the end of the Monday Night football game in Seattle.

The refs were right.

Why don’t they want you to the refs were right? For one of two reasons. First, most of them are ignorant of the rules of the game. Sadly, they know maybe slightly more than the average fan. If you’ve ever listened to Trey Wingo, you already know this. But what about those like Jon Gruden, a former Superbowl-winning coach? Shouldn’t he know all the intricate rules of the sport? Why did it take him 11 minutes and an official consultant to merely address the concept of simultaneous possession on Monday Night Football?

Here’s the dirty truth:

All those NFL sympathizers are so desperate to have a game or a play to hang their hat on to show how poor the replacement officiating is that they’re willing to fudge the facts a little bit to convince the greater public that the sky is falling. Maybe not even consciously, but all Gruden could talk about until Gerry Austin, the NFL officiating consultant arrived, was how “comical” the situation was and how they should give Green Bay the game because they’d have to “fly all the way home” with this loss on their heads. Since when does the distance travelled have anything to do with who deserves a game more?

Without a Catch

The greater public gets all of their information from the media, who often have their own agendas. For proof, ask liberals what they think about Fox News during election season. The effect they have over sports fans is more subtle but just as subjective. They all hate how much money the NFL makes against the backdrop of the recent lockout of the players and the current lockout of the officials. It’s easy to say that the 32 owners, who have appointed Roger Goodell to speak for them, are less concerned about the integrity of the game when they won’t pony up the cash to pay for experienced officials. And when all the talking heads agree, it’s a tidal wave of influence crashing right onto the beaches of the common man. Especially when using buzz words like “integrity.” So if the chance for them to flex their “I told you so” muscles presents itself, well damn the logic and the rules. It’s time to pounce.

The strongest arguments give the opposing position a little space within that argument. That way, it feels more like someone is seeking the truth rather than trying to win an argument. Lawyers and other people with their own agendas will ignore some facts when convenient in favor of proving their point. Want proof?

1.Who heard that possession is not simultaneous if a player has control of the ball first? I know I did. About 247 times in the last two days. Who was reminded that a catch is not completed until a player’s feet hit the ground? Not me. Not once. I wonder why that is.

2.Clearly, Jennings had the ball to his chest while Tate had only his hands around the ball. Who heard that one? Me too. But who heard the NFL’s definition of possession? Nope. Me either. Turns out it says nothing about percentage of a possession. Either you have it or you don’t. There is no such thing as “more possession” in the NFL rules. And in all my years watching football, two hands around the ball is possession, even if it isn’t clearly defined in the NFL rulebook.

Therefore, there was no catch by anyone until someone with possession had either both of their feet (or another body part besides the hand) hit the ground. So if Tate had possession by the time Jennings’ second foot hit the ground, the possession should be considered simultaneous. Consider once Jennings’ second foot hitting the ground, removing him entirely from the picture. Does Tate have possession? I’m guessing he does.

3.Is possession or isn’t possession reviewable? All the talking heads said it wasn’t. But the league said it was. And it was reviewed. And the replay officials still agreed. Then the talking heads just said “You’ve got to be kidding me” in the same way John Fox said it after he was called for having 12 men on the field after actually having 12 men on the field.

So if a possession isn’t possession until it’s a catch and a catch isn’t a catch until a player’s feet hit the ground and possession is either possession or not possession, it looks like it might be a touchdown after all. Sorry. I know you already saw what you saw and heard the things that backed up what you already thought was right and you hate being wrong. Feel free to ignore this because it doesn’t agree with what you want to be true. It’s what a real sportscaster would do.

Final Thoughts

Does this play fail the eyeball test? Of course it does. Anyone unaware of the rules of football will say that the man in the yellow helmet caught the ball. But lots of plays fail the eyeball test. Remember Calvin Johnson’s 4th quarter catch against the Bears in Week One in 2010? How about the Tuck Rule? I’m sure Gruden does. But the NFL rulebook often fails the eyeball test. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong and it doesn’t mean the regular officials wouldn’t have called it the same way.

Did the refs screw this up? Of course. The head referee never talked to the two officials making opposing calls, but instead went right to the replay booth. It looks bad and gives a lot more credence to the talking heads’ argument. But they’re not wrong. If the call of an interception was made, it probably wouldn’t have been reversed either. It was a close play. Period. They happen all the time. It just happens that the outcome of a game hinged on this one. And if the regular officials were out there, it would still be the most talked about and controversial call in years, no matter which way it was called.

Also, the replacement officials are not compromising player safety. I believe this is talked about right alongside the statistic that shows how they’re making more calls than they have been in the past. They’re making incorrect calls if anything, not less calls. Anybody want to show me the stat that says injuries are up or down or show me more missed head-to-head calls than there were last year? I’m all ears.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am assuming possession cannot be established before something is determined a catch. But I’d be surprised if you can establish possession before it’s considered a catch according to the NFL rulebook. I’m also very much in favor of getting the experienced officials back. But let’s do it the right way. Stop planting drugs in their cars to get the arrest. Or are sportscasters not held to the same level of integrity?

And by the way Jennings, if you had just knocked the ball down like every grade school defensive back is taught instead of going for the spotlight of a game-winning interception, none of us would be in this position, most notably your 1-2 Packers.

Jerkface Move of the Week: I know I wrote a lot about the “Inaccurate Reception,” but I had to say something about this. OK. So maybe the first time you’re trying to catch the Giants off guard with that Jerkface kneel down move. But not only do you do it again this week, but three times? And you had to call a time out to do it the third time? Turns out you’re not clever. You’re just a Jerkface.

Feel free to disagree with me. But I dare you to do it with logic and facts, not what you heard on TV.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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