Lions Were Robbed, But the Officials' Call Was Right

Ken HowesCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2010

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 12: Zack Bowman #35 and Danieal Manning #38 of the Chicago Bears break up a pass intended for Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions during the NFL season opening game at Soldier Field on September 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 19-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I think my reaction was the same incredulity of almost everyone else.  Calvin Johnson took the pass.  He was not bobbling it. He was hit and went down in the end zone. Half a second or so after he hit the ground, he let the ball go.  That's a touchdown.

It wasn't.  The rule on a catch in the end zone is that there must be "two acts" for a reception in the end zone to be a touchdown.  Johnson hadn't had the "two acts", and it wasn't a TD.  Bears win.

My Chicago-girl wife was ecstatic, but I am a Patriots fan. I didn't really have a dog in that fight, though I do rather like the Bears.  What I saw was Calvin Johnson on the ground with possession of the ball.  That should have been a TD.

Rules aren't always right.  It appears that the referees' call was correct according to the rule.  The same was true in 2001 with Tom Brady and the "tuck rule." 

Where a rule produces bizarre results like Calvin Johnson's non-catch, it has  to be reviewed the next time the league's rules committee meets, and some better formulation should be presented to the owners for approval as soon as possible.  In the case of the "tuck rule", that was done after the 2001 season. The owners decided to keep it.

What we can't have is officials making their calls not according to the rules but according to what they think the rules ought to be.  There's too much of that in baseball.  Every umpire has his own strike zone, generally something other than MLB's rules.  The result has been a distortion of the game.

Perhaps the MLB umpires have been reading too many liberal court decisions.  Repeatedly, courts enter decisions with no foundation in actual law but only in current intellectual fashion.  The result is a moral and legal chaos in our society.  It is good, even when an anomalous result comes, that the referees hold to the rules as they are.  That happened yesterday.

I gulped at it.  I didn't like it.  But the referees did the right thing. Now the owners should do the right thing and change the rule.