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And Another Thing

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Associated Press photos
Calvin Johnson catches the pass in the end zone over Zackary Bowman.

Meanwhile, back in the real world ...

AP
Johnson comes down in the end zone with the ball.

... Calvin Johnson caught a touchdown pass with 27 seconds to play and the Lions shocked the Bears in Chicago, 21-19.

In the through-the-looking-glass reality that is the National Football League, of course, that's not what happened. Calvin Johnson failed to follow the prescribed "process" for scoring a touchdown (sudden mental vision: Calvin Johnson standing in line at the Bureau For Scoring Touchdowns, filling out forms in triplicate), so it wasn't a touchdown.

Here's the most outrageous thing about all this: According to the rulebook, the officials made the correct call. According to the rulebook, the pass was indeed "incomplete."

Of course, according to the eyeballs, common sense and a fundamental understanding how the game is supposed to work (and does, everywhere but Whoville), it was a touchdown.

Both hands had the ball firmly in their grasp. Both feet were down in the end zone. And even when Johnson went to the ground, he maintained control of the ball with one hand.

That, boys and girls, is a touchdown everywhere but the NFL.

In the Numbingly Formal League, apparently, it's no longer enough to observe the age-old proprieties for what constitutes a touchdown. Now there's etiquette involved, too.

(Sudden mental vision: Calvin Johnson finishing a lovely meal, then being told by two waiters in officials' uniforms that the meal didn't count because he used the wrong salad fork).

So here's my question about all of this: Are all those one-handed catches I've seen over the years suddenly null-and-void, because according to my reading of the ruling, they, too, violate the "process"? What about all the times I saw Walter Payton cross a goal line with the ball in one hand and then drop it? And what about the concept of "breaking the plane"? Is that no longer part of the "process"?

Ah, the NFL. If it made sense, it wouldn't be the NFL.

Ben Smith's blog.

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