In tossing aside laws of physics, NFL is hardly forward-thinking

August 22, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

I'M GUESSING this is a new one even for Brian Billick, whose intellectual interests stretch far enough beyond football to realize that he was not done in Saturday night by a shaky Kyle Boller or the unavailability of Jamal Lewis or Todd Heap.

The Ravens lost to the Philadelphia Eagles because the NFL apparently has outlawed the physical principle of relative motion.

Sorry, I'm not trying to high-hat you here, but the Ravens lost by six points in a game in which they were docked a touchdown at the end of the first half because the officials looked at the instant replay and reversed the most exciting play of the game - a blocked field goal that was returned for an apparent touchdown by Chris McAlister.

The officials determined - upon further ridiculous review - that Ed Reed, who originally picked up the ball, pitched it to McAlister at the Ravens' 39-yard line and McAlister caught it at the 40. Never mind that Reed was in front of McAlister when he let go of the ball and was still in front of him when it was caught.

The reason that is possible is because of relative motion, a concept that is sometimes explained to young physics students like this:

Imagine that you were on a bus going 60 mph and you pitched a football to your buddy sitting three rows behind you. In the single second that the ball was in the air seemingly traveling backward eight feet, the bus traveled forward 90 feet. Therefore, if you interpreted the situation the same way as the officials did Saturday night, that would have been a forward lateral because it actually was caught 82 feet in front of where it was pitched.

Reed and McAlister were running at nearly full speed when Reed gave up the ball, so the ball already was traveling forward at a pretty good clip. Reed flipped it behind him, but the whole play (represented by the bus in the aforementioned scenario) had moved forward enough to make the pitch technically a forward lateral.

"I don't know of any level of football - pee wee, Pop Warner, high school, college or pro, where that is not a touchdown," Billick said.

I'm thinking maybe at MIT or Cal Tech, but the officials clearly outsmarted themselves when they overruled that electrifying play at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night.

Billick chose his words carefully after the game, because the NFL levies heavy fines for public criticism of its officials, but he clearly was disturbed that the laws of the physical universe apparently no longer apply to professional football.

The next thing you know, the rules committee will outlaw gravity and Kyle Boller will have no excuse for underthrowing all those receivers.

If you want to criticize Reed's decision to pitch that ball, go to town. He could have high-stepped all the way into the end zone himself, because the only Eagles player in the vicinity of the play was the kicker, but the Ravens work on making that pitch in practice so that the lead guy can block if necessary.

Somebody asked Reed afterward whether he should have hung onto the ball, but he didn't bite.

"I wouldn't change a thing about it," he said.

The Associated Press preseason football poll is in and my USC Trojans are again on top of the intercollegiate world.

No shock there.

The only surprise is that five of the 65 voters somehow came to the conclusion that there is a better team than the two-time defending national champions, who will return for the 2005 season almost intact. Four voters chose No. 2 Texas and some independent thinker picked No. 12 Louisville, a team with the same chance of being in the national championship game as I have of making a cameo as Eva Longoria's new squeeze on Desperate Housewives.

Still getting over the stunning revelation that Randy Moss smokes weed. I felt the same way the last time someone told me pro wrestling isn't real.

The ESPN report Saturday that Rafael Palmeiro had cleared waivers was a tad overblown.

Teams routinely pass players through waivers - even big-name players they have no real intention of trading or who no one would be interested in because of a recent positive steroid test.

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