Dez Bryant’s play late in the fourth quarter in the Divisional Playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers was a football catch for the ages in a million backyards, a thousand Friday nights, and a hundred campus Saturdays, just not according to the technocrats at the National Football League.
I was seven when I watched Jerry Kramer and Forest Gregg plow a path over Jethro Pugh in the NFL Championship Game of 1967 while Bart Starr snuck into the end zone beating the Cowboys. This loss to the Packers wasn’t as cold, nor as bitter. It was, however, the stage for one of the best catches I’ve ever seen, rendered irrelevant by the handcuffed interpretation of a poorly written rule.
Bart Starr, #15, face mask in the dirt just short of the goal line, but clearly, making a “football move”, one “common to the game.”
So in honor of the days when boys in backyards knew what a catch was without instant replay, here is my defense of the overturned ruling on the field in the Cowboys/Packers game last night. After all, we can’t have players making up “football things” as they go, it wouldn’t be American, and it wouldn’t be something common to this great game. So, here are seven reasons Dez Bryant did NOT catch that football.
1. Jethro Pugh’s frozen mouthpiece from the 1967 ice bowl, still imbedded on the 1-yard line dislodged the ball.
2. That catch would have been overturned by simple eyesight in a million backyard games, the lights of a thousand friday nights, and the sunlight of a hundred college games without the aid of ten cameras. Anyone who has ever played football knows that wasn’t a catch.
3. Dez of his own volition, despite wearing a helmet, pads, and cleats, danced Swan Lake by Reisinger & Tchaikovsky, after securing possession of the ball, instead of making a “football move.”
4. Football is simple. Block. Tackle. Pass. Catch. Complete the process. Make a football move. Multi-tasking isn’t allowed. You must complete the process and then make a football, move, in that order.
5. While extending the ball to the end zone, Dez was doing the State Farm double check he had seen Aaron Rodgers doing, instead of securing the ball with both hands and going down in a safe insurable manner.
6. Dez did not complete the process of the catch, which easily could have been done while running three steps with the ball, between the six and the one yard line, by logging on to http://www.ineverplayedfootballinmybackyardbutihavealawdegreeandcanwriteobscurerules.com, and completing a short form borrowed from healthcare.gov
7. Bryant’s catch was not “an act common to the game,” like Bart Starr sneaking across the goal line with his face in the frozen tundra of Lambeau. This was an act of an uncommon athlete. Anything so uncommon is best eliminated using the beautiful, richly-grained wooden rigidity of the arcane.