James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lied To All These Years

Last night's was the 29th Super Bowl I've watched. Not a great game, but like just twelve others I've watched, it was competitive -- the outcome in doubt well into the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks got jobbed probably six times by the refs, but also beat themselves. The Rolling Stones were fine, doing what they were expected to do. (The Super Bowl halftime is a no-win situation no matter who performs.) The Stevie Wonder "concert" beforehand would have been better if it was a real Stevie Wonder concert, and not a Motown medley. The National Anthem was both well-arranged and strange at the same time. The commercials were pretty lame.

What baffled me, however, was the Matt Hasselbeck fumble which was over-ruled by replay. The ref made the correct call on the replay review; Hasseleck was indeed down by contact, otherwise known as "tackled." That's not the issue. What angered me was for two decades I've been hearing:

"The ground can not cause a fumble." Every game an announcer says it. "The ground can not cause a fumble."

What does that mean? I've interpreted it the only way it could be: if the ball carrier falls to the ground and the ball pops out, there is no fumble. So the ball would be dead at that spot. And the only reason to even say this is if the runner was not down by contact, but fell to the ground by himself. If the ball carrier hit the ground because of contact with an opposing player, then he's down, and the rule would be a redundant statement: "The ball carrier can not fumble the ball after he's downed."

If the runner in the open field, with no defender near, stumbles and falls to the ground all by himself, with the ball popping out of his possession once he hits the ground, there is no fumble; the player would be down at that spot. Why? Because there's that rule: the ground can not cause a fumble. The rule never made sense to me, but that's what I kept hearing: the ground can not cause a fumble.

And then last night Al Michaels said this isn't true; that the ground can cause a fumble if the runner falls down without contact. But if this is the case, then the "rule" is actually that a player can not fumble the football after he's tackled. Which is a big giant "duh!"

Why have they been saying all these years that the ground can't cause a fumble, when it can?

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