It’s darkly charming that, more than 100 years after the legalization of the forward pass in football, one of the most frustrating parts of the game is not knowing what the NFL considers a catch. The league knows this is a problem, and set priority No. 1 this offseason as simplifying the catch rule. Now we know, in rough terms, what it’ll look like.
Yesterday, Troy Vincent gave a tease:
“Slight movement of the ball, it looks like we’ll reverse that,” Vincent said Tuesday. “Going to the ground, it looks like that’s going to be eliminated. And we’ll go back to the old replay standard of reverse the call on the field only when it’s indisputable.”
Today, the NFL competition committee revealed its recommendations, as relayed by head of officiating Al Riveron. It is expected to be approved by owners at next week’s league meetings.
“The ability to perform such an act.” Yep, that’s it. That’s going to be the main point of debate. A receiver’s going to get hit and lose the ball a beat after putting his second foot down, and the question will be whether he could have made “a football move” or not, and some people will think yes and some will think no and the referees, after a lengthy review, will rule the opposite of whatever you think should have happened.
The NFL is backed into a corner just by dint of using instant replay, because actions and intentions at full-speed bear the scantest resemblance to those same actions viewed on review. Slow motion is alethiological hell.
There’s not really a perfect answer here, but it’d be nice if the NFL’s definition of “catch” resembled what you and I and every English-speaker understand to be a “catch.” Like, if you toss your friend the car keys, you know what it means to say he caught it. (Or dropped it, as the case may be.)
To that end, I’d like to formally propose my foolproof solution to the NFL’s catch rule problem. There will be a tribunal consisting of three 9-year-olds stationed at the league office, or possibly at a California Pizza Kitchen. When a play is challenged or reviewed, the 9-year-olds will be shown the replay. The 9-year-olds will decide—majority rule—if the player caught the ball or if he didn’t. This couldn’t be simpler.