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Rant, Rave

PETE YOUNG
Published December 7, 2003

When is a catch not a catch?

The spectacular, diving, full-extension catch has gone the way of the dodo bird. It is extinct.

The NFL killed it.

Exhibit A: Ronde Barber's oh-my-God-what-a-grab interception late in the Bucs' loss to the Jaguars Sunday. It was awe-inspiring. It was physics-defying. It was, possibly, game-changing.

It was even more impressive on replay. Barber launched himself, stretched his arms out of their sockets to get a fingertip on Byron Leftwich's pass, seized it while fully outstretched and sailed several feet before crashing to the field.

The ball, upon impact with the ground, moved a smidgen as Barber drew his arms in to clutch it to his chest. The official watched this mind-boggling feat on replay and ... overruled the initial call. No catch.

Excuse me? Barber had the ball locked between his hands for the flight back to earth, the ball never came close to releasing from his hands and the ground in no way assisted him. But it is not a catch because the ball moved a few millimeters after he had established control?

That, in a word, is absurd-crazy-dumb-insane-moronic-stupid.

Memo to the NFL: If the ground doesn't assist the catch, then it is a catch. Barber and others are being robbed by ludicrous rules.

Running rings around the greed

Mark Richt has done wonders at Georgia, going 31-7 in three seasons. He immediately took the Bulldogs, mired in mediocrity since Herschel Walker departed, to the proverbial next level. He sustained it this season despite a glut of injuries.

The SEC East champions played Saturday for the conference title against West Division champ LSU. Georgia aimed for back-to-back titles and another SEC championship ring.

Last season nine Bulldogs sold that ring. Valued at about $350, the nine fetched about $1,500-$2,000 apiece. It's hard to blame them - that's a lot of cash to a college student - but impossible not to.

This isn't about how revenue-generating college athletes get short-shrifted financially, because they do. It's about the rings, which were free and represent the hard work of every player and coach on the team, not just the individual receiving it. They represent something intangible and invaluable, an achievement to be cherished forever, not cash for a new set of speakers or video games.

Georgia hadn't won an SEC crown in 20 years, yet several players sold off the symbol of that accomplishment. Richt was appalled, and last week he announced that if Georgia won again, the nine would have to buy their own rings.

Good move. We hope it will deliver the proper message, not merely cut into their profit margin.

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