Posted: Friday May 6, 2005 1:23PM; Updated: Saturday May 7, 2005 10:25AM
5. One foot in bounds is a catch.
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On this one, the colleges have it absolutely, unequivocally correct. (Anyone who saw then-Michigan State wideout Charles Rogers' late touchdown grab against Notre Dame in 2002 -- three defenders draped all over him, Rogers somehow rises above them all to make a catch as he's sailing out of the end zone, only to defy laws of physics and somehow, with one foot, reverse momentum mid-air and drag that puppy in-bounds for a miracle touchdown -- knows exactly what I'm talking about.) Those preening, dancing, Sharpie-wielding divas split wide are also the sport's most dazzling athletes; so why legislate their singular ability out of the game? It's called a catch because that's what's important -- the catch. Requiring a certain number of feet in bounds is arbitrary; in this instance, less is inarguably more.
The fix: One foot in counts. And so, to the highlight reels we go ...
6. Force-outs are legal.
The yang to No. 5's yin (and the product of innumerable in-season bull sessions with fellow SI NFL-er Mike Silver), this rule would again level the playing field for defensive backs whose jobs have grown increasingly difficult by the year. Just as a receiver's ability to catch the uncatchable (even with only one foot in play) should be rewarded, so should a pass defender's fundamental responsibility: denying the offense's advance through the air while staying in-bounds.
If a receiver is forced to jump to make a catch near the sideline -- leaving himself vulnerable to a tackle that could force him entirely off the field -- then why penalize the defender for doing what he's supposed to? As it is now, a defender is asked to essentially not do his job on airborne, sideline catches, lest he two-hand-touch his way into a side judge's not-so-certain ruling in the wideout's favor. This rule has always bothered me, if only because it runs so counter to the the game's fundamentals.
The fix: A legal tackle that forces a receiver out of bounds before he lands negates the catch -- regardless of where he would've landed sans contact. Because what might have happened didn't, legally and legitimately.
7. No fair catches.
A favorite of my big boss, SI.com honcho Paul Fichtenbaum, it's a simple suggestion that will inject life into the game without drastically skewing its rhythms. I'm not advocating for the mandatory fielding of punts; if a return man doesn't feel up to the catch, or is less than certain about the wedge in front of him, he's free to let that sucker bounce.
The fix: If he catches it, he's fair game (again, within reason).
8. No color-coded line-of-scrimmage marker on my TV.
Enough already. And I am, by no means, opposed to the technological improvements that television has brought to our viewing experience. Remember how people squawked when FOX had the nerve to cloud our screen with the score/clock/down-and-distance box? Like the cellphone, e-mail and my DVR, I can't imagine life without it now. (How'd we ever make it?) To a lesser degree, I wasn't sure about the CGI first-down stripe ... for about two weeks, after which I'd given my heart to it. (Who hasn't screamed for a ballcarrier to just lean another foot toward the line, forgetting that the thing doesn't actually exist?) But with the line-of-scrimmage stripe, our screen looks increasingly like the drawing my niece made for uncle Josh ... when she was 2.
The fix: Retire the stripe. The picture's Crayola-addled enough as it is ...
And while I figure out what the hubbub regarding Abdul's alleged relationship with a former American Idol contestant is all about -- since her next harsh word for anybody will be her first -- I ask for your suggestions, for an all-Mailbagger version of the above list, coming to a computer screen near you.