Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Revenge of the Rules Nerds

Well, that didn't take long.

The NFL season is always sure to produce several calls by the refs that baffle, infuriate, and generally create a week's worth of griping on sports talk radio.

But here we go. Week one, and the beer swilling masses are already up in arms over the Megatron negated game winning touchdown.

As they should be.

Nobody likes a rules ninny, and this league is becoming as technical and litigious as your cell phone company on early termination rules.

When things look like a catch, they should be called just that - a catch.

How on earth could the NFL rulebook allow for something as vague as "the process" of making a catch enter the rules? The process? Process? (insert high pitched, Jim Mora-esque voice).

You talking, process?

The fact that the NFL also has a definition of a "second act" during a catch, is proof positive that even they can't truly define when that "process" ends.

Fans bitch about the refs all the time in the NFL. Sometimes, rightfully so.

I bitch about the rule book. It is a bloated mess.

And get this, the NFL won't even put the full rulebook on their website. They have a rules "digest" but the full megillah is only available by going through the NFL Media site, which requires a password.

SIDE NOTE: When I went to use the phrase "full magilla" I stopped to wonder: "What the hell is that from?" Well, I found out!

It’s really spelled megillah, and it’s the Hebrew word for a scroll. In particular, it refers to one of five books of the Old Testament, namely Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, which are read on certain Jewish special days. The most common reference, though, is to the Book of Esther, which is read in its entirety at the feast of Purim.

Anyway, back to my point. The rulebook is a farce. The NFL has tried to define every single act, concept, and possible athletic move in writing.

No wonder they have tied themselves in knots!

The rulebook needs to be made more SIMPLE, and in many instances, LESS specific. I know that is counter-intuitive, but think about it: somebody at the end of all the rulebook's legalese is still going to have to make the call.

A judgment call.

You can't reduce all judgment calls to black and white, legally binding rules that fit all occasions.

Just like the horrible Troy Polomalu call vs. the Colts in the playoffs.

Polamalu intercepted a pass, rolled to the ground, then fumbled the ball while getting up. The play was initially ruled an interception and fumble, but after viewing the instant replay, referee Pete Morelli ruled the play an incomplete pass. His rationale was that Polamalu did not make a "football move" after intercepting the pass but before fumbling the ball, and therefore did not demonstrate possession of the ball. The NFL later released a statement saying that Morelli's interpretation was incorrect, and that the interception should have been upheld.

This time, the NFL has not thrown their own refs under the bus. Instead, they are doubling down on stupid.

"I'd like to see a little commonsense injected into the officiating," Jags coach Jack Del Rio said Monday.

That's exactly what the league doesn't want.

"What we try to do with any rule is eliminate the gray area," NFL vice president of officiating Carl Johnson said.

"It reminds me of the tuck rule, which a lot of people didn't know," he said. "But it was properly ruled on the field. Now it is a nonevent because the fans know it.

"Now we can further educate the fans and media on what the proper requirements are for a catch."

Now, it could just be me, but I don't think holding up the NFL's OTHER absurdly abstract and drippingly unfair call helps the NFL's image on this. Yet, this is apparently what league administrators get all hard just thinking about.

And if you really want to "educate" the fans on the rules, why not start with putting the full 137 page PDF "Rule and Casebook" on the front page of so we can print a copy, and keep it by the ottoman on Sundays.


  1. I agree completely...the fact that this was a "good" call completely proves the point that this is a bad rule. Let's call it the "common man" test. If the common man can see it is a catch, then it is a catch.

    Sometimes I really think baseball has the right idea with extremely limited replay. If we wanted perfection in calls we would have a replay after every play and a camera on every player. Being a Packer fan, I was POed that twice now, Aaron Rogers has been mauled on obvious non-call facemasks in the last two games that mattered, but you know what? I am sure there have been non-calls going the other way as well. Thats just the way sports is. If you arent cheatin' you ain't tryin'.

  2. When I saw that play, and heard the rule book explanation, my immediate reaction? The rule book was written by men with tiny hands and little athletic ability who couldn't conceive of PALMING a football while rolling to the ground. Men with big wallets and too much time on their (tiny) hands.

  3. I thought it was "magilla" as in Magilla Gorilla

  4. What's happening to the NFL? It's being run by morons.

  5. Czabe, how have you not seen the AXE body spray clean balls commercial that is appearing on prime time TV? OMG SO AWESOME. This is the full commercial but there is one that is currently airing during primetime... sooooooo goood....

  6. Using the "tuck rule" as a justification for another horrible call. Classic.

  7. Help an idiot, I still don't get the call in the first place. Possession of the ball, two feet down, in the endzone = touchdown. Plus all the "ground can't cause a fumble" nonsense once he palms the ball on the ground.

    On a running play the instant the ball crosses the plain, even if being held out by fingertips = touchdown, even if it is slapped out of the hand a nanosecond later by the defense.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. The ground can't cause a fumble, but it can cause an incomplete pass.

  10. I agree w/you Czabe. Rules and replay reviews are sucking the life out of the NFL. I'd rather live the the occasional incorrect judgement call on the field than the micromanagement by rule weenies.

  11. It's a microcosm of society at large, unfortunately. As it grows and evolves, it becomes more litigious and less free (or 'wild west' as its supporters might say). Maybe we need a fan uprising in football, and drop some of the whiny rules and over-regulation.

  12. As much as baseball umps and ref's have been under fire this year, probably most noted for Jim Joyce taking away a no hitter from Armando Galarraga. If baseball was officiated like the NFL, we would have had a perfect game. But in the same thinking do we want baseball officiated as meticulously as the NFL? We talk every week of the bad balls n strikes, or the missed called Jeter not being hit but the officials are allowed to interpret the rules and integrity of the game. Sure it gives us lots of fodder to talk about but the NFL should look at becoming a lil more flexible and not so much a mechanical cash printing machine that is too rigid.

  13. According to NFL Rule 174.45(b), it was obviously completely not an absolute incomplete catch pass for a touchup not down and was correctly misjudged and called accurately wrong. Consequently the Bears were totally robbed of 6 points.

    -NFL Rules Official

    p.s. I know he did not use the Tuck Rule to justify something. It took how many years for that carma to be corrected? (i.e. Justin TUCK's sack / stripping of the ball from Brady in the Super Bowl)

    How long must we wait now for Detroit to get to the Super Bowl to have their carma redeemed!!! Ugh!

  14. I cry bull***t. The fans do not understand the tuck rule, because it has never been called except for that one occasion. The strict interpretation is that it is impossible for a QB to fumble after a pump fake. If the league had any smart coaches, they instruct their QBs to pump fake every time they drop back. The so-called tuck rule would disappear the following week...