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Memo to NFL receivers: Don’t fall down — ever

Posted on Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 6:00 am

Ken Jackson
Picks of the Weak

Random thoughts from the comfy, tan recliner, where I’d love to settle down for a long winter’s nap if the temperature would just get below 78 …

… I guess if you want to get credit for a catch in the NFL, you should never go to the ground. Ever. Leave no doubt.

Leave it to the billion-dollar National Football League to make the act of a man catching a ball as clear as mud, especially when the outcome of a game that had already gone on for three hours was in the balance, like last week’s Steelers-Patriots Grudge Match of the Millennium of the Year.

I could have told you that the Jesse James un-reception was indeed a catch and, based on the league’s rulebook, you could have said I was wrong.

Then I could have told you it wasn’t a catch, and based on the book you could tell me I’m still wrong.

This is the same league that prides itself on being on the cutting-edge of the digital age, yet uses 19th Century technology with two sticks and a chain (and breaks out the index cards when needed) to determine when a football team has advanced a football 10 yards.

The NFL has no problem defining what a catch is. They just have no clue what it isn’t because the definition changes from officiating crew to crew. It’s a moving target and getting it right week to week is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.

The call was right as the rule is written. And the rule should be re-written.

It won’t before the next time it affects the outcome of a game. Hopefully it’s not a really huge game, like the Battle Royal of All-Time of the Month, or something …

… ‘Tis the season for sub-par bowl games. I mean, can you contain your enthusiasm for tonight’s Dollar General Bowl? Will it be Appalachian State taking the trophy? Will it be Toledo? Will I be awake for the halftime show?

That last paragraph shows how easy it is to make fun of this annual slate of exhibition football games. They only matter to three groups: television executives and conference big-wigs — who we’d never miss if we shipped them out on a one-way ticket to the Bahamas Bowl — and fans of the teams playing in them.

And, kudos to those fans, especially of those playing in these pre-Christmas games. When’s the next chance UAB, or Ohio U., or Central Michigan, or Wyoming are going to play in a marquee game of the day on ESPN? Probably in next year’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Take a team like Georgia State, out of the Sun Belt Conference. The Panthers started playing football in 2010, and at 6-5 had just their second winning season. They capped it with a 27-17 win over Western Kentucky as an underdog last week at Camping World Stadium that otherwise was an afterthought here in town to fans of the other more established programs.

It was Georgia State’s first-ever bowl win, and eyewitness accounts around town said their couple thousand fans in attendance partied hard like they had just won the (Insert Annual Corporate Sponsor Here) Citrus Bowl. To this point, it’s the high water mark of GSU’s infant program.

It’s a great day to be a Panther.

And that, boys and girls, is the true meaning of Bad Bowl Week.

Those folks have already gotten a great Christmas present. For the rest of you, I offer the Mighty News-Gazette Divine Nine Christmas Gifts from the Sports Department:

  1. NFL logo-embossed index cards. 2. Georgia State (or Marshall, or Middle Tennessee) bowl champion gear. 3. Children who sleep until 9 a.m. on winter vacation (for the people with kids). 4. Viable hangover remedies (For the people without — New Years is coming!). 5. Anything from the BOGO bin at Dollar General (where you might find those index cards; Santa needs stocking stuffers). 6. Back-to-back three-day weekends. 7. TOYS! 8. Comfortably-fitting pants. 9. A year … a month … a week … without having to hear about another violent episode in this world.

We’ll leave the bad bowls alone (until we have to touch them) and pick this week’s pro games …

Miami at Kansas City (-10): Dolphins wish they had a bad bowl to play in, like FAU, who won the Cheribyundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl the other night. Chiefs by 13.

Tampa Bay at Carolina (-9.5): Ditto. South Florida (which is in West Central Florida, by the way) plays Texas Tech today in the Birmingham Bowl. It’ll be a better game. Panthers by 10.

Jacksonville (-4) at San Francisco: For years the Jags were worse than some bad bowl game teams, now they could win the division. Better Jags by 7.

Atlanta at New Orleans (-5): This is less bad bowl and more actual playoff game. Falcons by 3 in Christmas Miracle Upset Special.

Independence Bowl, Wednesday: Southern Miss vs. Florida State (-15): This keeps a 36-year streak of a bowl game alive, so for the ‘Noles a bad bowl is better than no bowl at all. FSU by 17 and we’ll see you on Labor Day.

And to all, a good night.