After weeks of agonizingly mediocre and predictable football, Super Bowl LI rewarded us with what many are calling the greatest Super Bowl ever. We were graced with the largest comeback and the first overtime in Super Bowl history, as well as two-point conversions, an onside kick attempt and more than one superhuman catch.
Never mind that the champions were the New England Patriots — as much as the majority of the country was rooting against them — the game was too great to not appreciate.
One of the game’s most memorable moments was Patriots receiver Julian Edelman’s unbelievable acrobatic fourth quarter catch, a highlight now being considered the Patriots’ very own “helmet catch,” referencing New York Giants’ David Tyree’s catch against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIII.
At 1st-and-10 on the Patriots’ own 36, Edelman snagged the football just centimeters from the ground. The catch was so unbelievable that the Falcons challenged the completed pass to no avail. Edelman’s talented hands successfully kept the football from grazing the grass, and every replay confirmed it.
The catch marked the first successful connection between Edelman and Brady. For the first three quarters, the two seemed dysfunctional and were unable to complete even the most routine passes. But this one catch seemed to make up for every missed opportunity earlier in the game.
On Monday evening, Edelman humbly admitted on “The Tonight Show” that the catch was “70 percent luck.” He even critiqued his route running during the play.
There is a tendency when we mortals are graced with an out-of-this-world highlight to factor a significant amount of what we call “luck” into the success of the event. In an attempt to downplay the shock value of an individual’s athletic talent, we cite a little luck — being in the right place at the right time, a miracle, etc. — as the force that truly put together such an awesome play.
In an attempt to maintain humility, or perhaps to illustrate his own shock, Edelman himself fell into this unfair practice.
But consider Edelman: a lifelong professional athlete who has dedicated almost every day to catching footballs. He is one of the few on this earth who possesses the combination of body type, work ethic and athletic ability to compete as an elite member of the NFL.
Core strength, concentration, hand-eye coordination, familiarity with the trajectory of a thrown football, impeccable footwork, balance and speed all factored into Edelman’s ability to snag Brady’s low pass.
Superhuman? Probably. Incredible? Definitely. Shocking? Obviously.
I do not buy it for a second.
Back during New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s rookie season, the idea that a catch was “a miracle” received just as much credit as Beckham’s athletic ability when he made his famous one-handed catch against the Cowboys.
Soon after the catch, however, the public learned that Beckham had practiced this wild catch, not only during the pregame warm up leading up to the game, but also as a high school and college student. According to quotes that appeared in the weeks following the catch, Beckham’s high school and college coaches begged him to catch with two hands, as his acrobatic receptions became routine.
In other words, Beckham’s catch was not luck, not a miracle and not an accident. It was the product of years of practice.
While Edelman did not practice the “ankle catch” on any sort of regular basis like Beckham did with his one-handed catch, the Beckham phenomenon illustrates an important aspect of sports — especially catching a football — that is often easy to forget.
Not every throw during organized team activities, training camps and pregame warm-ups is a perfect spiral. And no receiver who is incapable of making acrobatic, highlight reel worthy receptions makes a name for himself in the NFL.
Edelman said his catch was “70 percent luck,” but that does not mean any lucky athlete could have made that catch. Let us give him and other athletes who have made incredible grabs the credit that they well deserve.
Great catches are hardly lucky; they are a product of talent and work.