Know the rules if you're going to question the call

January 05, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

There's nothing that annoys me more than sports broadcasters who have no clue what they're talking about.

I don't ask for much when I watch a game, but I do expect the professionals up in the booth to get it right, especially in regard to the rules.

On Sunday, Redskins tailback Clinton Portis hurt his arm and lower back on a tackle from behind by an Eagles defender, who grabbed Portis by the collar of his jersey and shoulder pads and ripped him down.

This is the same type of tackle that broke Terrell Owens' leg last season and led to the NFL's decision to ban horse-collar tackles. So needless to say, I was a little miffed that no flag was thrown - not because I'm a huge Redskins fan, because I'm not, but because when the NFL says it's going to watch out for certain things and then lets those things go by the wayside, well, that's a load of bull in my book. Let me add that this was not the first horse-collar tackle this season that went by unflagged, which is totally inexcusable considering how big a deal the NFL made of this new rule.


However, as I've written in this space before, officials miss a call from time to time, so I let that go.

Just as I was starting to calm down, I hear Fox color announcer Troy Aikman say during a replay, "That tackle was NOT a horse-collar tackle."

As Kyle's mom in "South Park" would say ... "Wha-wha-WHAT!!!"

How on Earth could Aikman watch that replay, and then say to a live television audience that it wasn't a horse-collar tackle?! It was the very definition of a horse-collar tackle! The tackler grabbed Portis by the back collar of his jersey and pulled him down. What did I miss?!

Then on Monday, I spent a few minutes between online poker hands watching the Outback Bowl between Iowa and Florida. I don't remember exactly which team was on offense (I was facing a big reraise on the turn holding bottom two pair, so forgive me if my mind was elsewhere), but on a pass play, the receiver made a leaping catch while inbounds about two yards from the sideline, but the defender shoved him sideways out of bounds before he could land inbounds. The pass was ruled incomplete.

Instantly, the color commentator pronounced that the official made a bad call, and that because the receiver was forced out of bounds by the defender, that the catch should stand.

Wrong! That's the NFL rule, NOT the college rule. In college, if you make a leaping catch but the defender shoves you out before you can get a foot down in play, you're flat out of luck. (Note that in college a receiver need only get one foot down inbounds to get credit for a catch, not both feet as in the NFL.)

Why does this stuff annoy me so much? Simple. It is the job of all members of the sports media to know the rules of the sports they cover. Those who rely on us for information - whether through the newspaper, radio or on TV - trust that we get it right.

The college mistake is an honest mistake made out of confusion, the kind we all make from time to time. However, Aikman really should know better about the horse-collar rule.

It's enough to make me reach for the mute button.

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail

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