We Still Have No Idea What a Catch Is in the NFL

NFL senior vice president of officiating explaining that ruling of an incompletion in Pittsburgh was correct: "As we can see here, Roethlisberger completes a pass to James."

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Dec 18 2017, 4:36pm

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What is a catch? Are you a catch? Am I catch? Are we all living inside a catch right now? Is there a difference between a catch and the idea of a catch? When does a catch end and life begin? If a catch falls in the forest, and no one is there to see it make a football move, does the catch happen?

The NFL’s catch rule is exhausting. Every time I think I understand it, something like Jesse James’s overturned touchdown at the end of Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game happens. I saw the ball come loose but, with great hubris, I declared the play a catch, because clearly he had possession, turned to the end zone, and extended the ball across the goal line. Game over. Suck it, Patriots.

The NFL changed the call, Ben Roethlisberger lost his damn mind like everyone seems to do in crunch time against the Patriots, and the Steelers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and overtime. The catch rule is so ridiculous that a video from the NFL explaining why the pass wasn’t completed opens with the phrase, “As we can see here, Roethlisberger completes a pass to James.”

This is the year satire died.

But I assure you, the reader, that I studied the catch rule thoroughly after Sunday’s events and am prepared to answer all questions about catches. That’s why I have created this helpful Q&A you can reference the next time an exotic and new circumstance appears in an NFL game. I love to entertain but sometimes I want to teach. Hopefully this doesn’t get too technical.

Let’s say a player catches a pass with two feet in bounds. Is that a catch?

I don’t know.

Let’s say a player catches a pass with two feet down but has the ball knocked out of his hands before he can move with it. Catch?

I don’t know.

OK, this seems easy. Let’s say he catches the ball, but as he’s going to the ground the ball pops loose on impact. Catch?

I don’t know.

What if a player secures the ball with two hands and, while falling to the ground, recites all the lyrics from Spacehog’s 1996 classic song “In the Meantime” before the ball comes loose on impact with the ground?

I don’t know.

What if after securing the catch, the first thing to touch the ground are the receiver’s balls, causing the receiver to scream, “Ouch, I sat on my balls!” before throwing the ball away in pain?

I don’t know.

What if the receiver catches the ball, takes three steps, attempts to hurdle a defender, is flipped so high into the air that he lands on top of the stadium, has to have a fire department come with a ladder to get him down, and, while he’s being carried down the ladder by a fireman, drops the ball into the stands.

I don’t know.

What if he was up on the stadium roof for an hour?

I don’t know.

What if a receiver catches the ball with his feet and gets two hands in bounds? Is that a catch?

I don’t know.

What if a receiver catches a pass in overtime, runs through the end zone, out of the stadium, across the street, into an airport, boards a plane, flies to Istanbul, meets a woman, dates her for six years, proposes marriage, gets married, moves back to America to accept a high school coaching job, coaches high school football for 40 years, receives a gym teacher of the year award, dies six years later, and is buried with the football he never put down for the rest of his life?

Catch.

Even if the ball is in the coffin with him and lowered into the ground, where both he and the coffin decompose, causing the ball to touch the dirt hundreds of years from now?

Oh, I don’t know.

What if a player catches the ball, gets two feet down, eats the ball, then pukes the ball on the field before he takes a third step?

I don’t know.

What if instead of puking up the ball, he poops the ball out the next day at home?

I don’t know.

What if a player catches the ball and, before anyone can tackle or touch him, he pulls out a gun and points it at the football and threatens everyone to stay away or the football gets it, and after a 12-hour standoff with referees, gently places the football on the ground?

I don’t know.

What if a player makes a catch, takes two steps, fills out the official NFL catch paperwork to declare his relationship with the football, has it stamped and notarized, files the paperwork with the league office and NFLPA, then fills out an Intent To Make A Football Move document but drops the pen and not the football?

I don’t know.

What if a player catches the ball in mid-air and, before he can return to the earth’s surface, the planet’s core explodes, which causes the loss of gravity as we drift off into space, but some of the dirt from the field touches the receiver’s feet as the ball slips into a black hole?

I don’t know.

What if a receiver catches the ball and gets two feet down, but his feet land on the back of an official, and then he uses the ball as a pillow under the wounded official’s head?

I don’t know.

OK, fine, I get it. Nobody knows with any certainty. But what if any of these possibilities occurred for the Patriots?

Definitely a catch.

And against the Patriots?

Definitely not a catch.