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BALL FIVE: If it walks like a duck…

Few things are certain in sports, but one is, and that is that the NFL rules committee will once again be spending the offseason trying to figure out just what is and what isn’t a catch.
Two weeks ago, the Vikings lost an apparent Adam Thielen touchdown when the mercurial wide out caught a ball, took two steps in bounds and then momentarily lost control while rolling out of the end zone.
Then on Sunday night, Pittsburgh tight end Jesse James caught a ball over the middle and then while stretching the ball across the goal line, bobbled the ball as it hit the ground.
Both were obviously catches, but both were easy calls as non-catches according to the rules of the NFL.
In the Vikings’ case, it may have cost them the game. It also may have cost them home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But it was early enough in the game that a lot of other things happened before the final outcome was decided.
In Pittsburgh, the not-a-catch call came on the third to last play of the game. It would have given the Steelers the lead over the Patriots with less than 30 seconds left to play. Now, while the Steelers did bungle the next two plays and mess up a chance to win or tie and force overtime, the touchdown that was not a touchdown made a mess of what had been a fantastic football game.
By the way, I hope it’s not lost on people that the James, who is the namesake of the greatest bank robber in American West folklore, was robbed.
Actually, the catch or not problem has been coming since the advent of instant replay. Now that HD has come along, television crews can come up with replay shots that can show one blade of grass between a player’s cleats and the sideline. Every little play can be scrutinized down to the finest detail. I think it’s too much, but when advanced technology comes along, it has to be used.
There are going to be more controversial plays in the final two weeks of the regular season and all the way through the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Every one of millions of fans are going to see up-close versions of every decisive play. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come down to a receiver making a catch and it has to be taken away.
To me this can be fixed in a simple way. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.