I Know It When I See It.

Probably the most famous words ever written by Justice Stewart. If you don’t know what he was referring to, that’s simply a topic for a different website. And through the lens of history, the reviews of ‘I know it when I see it’ as a criteria for absolutely anything are outright laughable.

And yet, fans want to rewrite the ‘what is a catch’ rule to be more of a I know it when I see it, type of rule. Basically, the argument goes that it’s just too technical, making it hard to apply and hard to understand when a catch truly is a catch. After all, much like Justice Stewart and most fans(except the team the packers are playing against on a given day), I know a catch when I see one, and the referees and opposing team would know it too, if only you took away all these technical aspects of the rule. Then we can start getting these calls correct and my team can stop getting robbed by outrageous technicalities!

Wrong. I promise you, that won’t work any better for our referees than it did for Justice Stewart. Sure, for a hot minute you’ll feel like you’re finally getting exactly what you wanted….right up until one doesn’t go your way. If a catch is in the eye of the beholder, wait until you behold a play differently than a referee. And when that happens, the referee, with no specific guidance from the rule book, will find himself to be right, and you will have nothing with which to support your position or complain about at the water cooler. And then we go to the replay, and under the rule that only ‘incontrovertible visual evidence’ can overturn the call on the field, how exactly do you ever overturn a catch or incompletion? We will have gutted the technical requirements of the rule that we needed to objectively overturn the call based upon objective guidelines. If you were hoping less rules would make more calls go in your teams favor, I’m afraid you’re about to be extraordinarily disappointed. Less rules means more leeway for the ref to call whatever he feels while watching a play going 100 mph. If you felt his judgment was highly questionable when he was trying to apply a objective rule, wait until you see what that incompetent moron(with money on the other team) does to you when applying a subjective rule.

I don’t suppose when the rule changes, you will stop complaining about bad calls because you’re willing to live and die with the rule you demanded? You’re still going to complain, and you will no longer be able to say the following:

“But after his second foot was on the ground, he was capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps!”

No, it was an incompletion, and that incompletion will be upheld on replay. Why? Because of every parent’s favorite justification. Because I said so. The paragraph above is a lot of language, but we’re all very familiar with it, we know what it means, and so do the refs. Try replacing it with something that allows the ref to just ‘know it when he sees it.’

Chew on this for a moment. BECAUSE I SAID SO. That is what you people are asking for as a rule to determine what a catch is. Say what you will about the ref’s screwing up a very technical set of criteria, but at least criteria exists! What are you going to say when the ref, with little guidance, simply saw it differently than you did, instead of doing his best to apply and uphold objective criteria? Do you really think that if the ref couldn’t see it your way when there was objective criteria to follow, that he’ll be better at his job when you remove the objective criteria and make catches more subjective????

Point is, if you think he can’t get it done properly with criteria to apply, how well will he do it when there’s less criteria to follow?

I know it when I see it is not an objective standard. When you read these rules, they aren’t all that unclear. Sure they’re tough in certain extremely limited circumstances and with the emergence of tv technology it’s really easy to second guess. Certainly the rules could be written better. But, even though the refs clearly do make mistakes, I do want objective criteria to exist.A lot of it.

And how often is this really a problem? We demand change as if every third play is outrageously bad, and that every call is keeping us out of the super bowl. In an average NFL game there are, on average, 80 passes. With 16 games played weekly, that’s 1,280 passes thrown on an average Sunday. After 16 weeks, 20,480 passes are thrown in the regular season. And precisely how many of these are all that controversial? I’d guessNFL-wide from 1 to 5 weekly are in the range of highly debatable to really awful, MAYBE one is bad enough to hit sportscenter, but for the naysayers, lets call it 15. IF that’s true, 15 calls out of 1,280 fall into the range of  highly debatable to really awful. If NFL wide, 15 calls are in that range weekly, over the course of the season that means there’s as many as 240 awful calls for every 20,480 passing plays. That’s a pretty unbalanced ratio, in favor of the refs and the overly technical rule. I can live with that ratio even if annually it happens to Dez Bryant with serious playoff repercussions. Because, that’s actually rarely the case.

And finally, I don’t think the rule is now too technical to salvage. I know this because the above ratio really favors the current system as being highly successful. Plus, the only time you hear all the technicalities of the rule is when replay officials are trying really hard to shoehorn what they saw into a specific provision of the rule. After a bang bang play you never hear a thing about these technicalities. I think the real problem is that a truly very technical rule is often the subject of replay reviews that insist not on observing the replay criteria, but upon searching for the truth, no matter how long it takes. NO. If you can’t overturn the call on incontrovertible visual evidence within 30, maybe even 60 seconds, then incontrovertible visual evidence simply does not exist. The rule is fine, it’s replay that is not being used properly. If you have to slow it down to frame by frame to see a single shot on occasion, ok, take a moment. If you have to watch over and over and over from five different angles in order to find it, it isn’t there. Move along.

If you want to make the rule easier to read, I’m fine with it. But, it doesn’t have to be any easier to apply. What needs to happen is, the refs need to stop trying so hard to use replay to get the correct result, and just determine as quickly as possible, does incontrovertible visual evidence exist to overturn the call made at 100 mph? If not, let the call stand. This is only difficult because we insist on making it difficult. If the rule gets a bit simplified, that’s probably a good thing. If this goes the total oversimplification route though, well, I Know It When I See It is WAY WAY WAY too simple and we will regret it.


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