Playing with Science – The Science of “The Catch”

StarTalk Playing with Science hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O'Reilly. Credit: Ben Ratner.

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About This Episode

On November 23, 2014, NY Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made a catch against the Dallas Cowboys that broke the Internet and stunned the football world. He did it in spite of a pass interference call, without stepping out of bounds – and he did it with one hand. Was it skill? Was it science? Or was it a little of both? In this episode of StarTalk Playing with Science, hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly take a closer look at “the greatest catch in NFL history.” At the time, sportscaster Cris Collinsworth, himself a former wide receiver, called the catch “impossible.” But was it? You’ll hear guest physicist John Eric Goff explain that although the laws of physics constrain all of us, Beckham’s feat shows us the absolute limits of what we’re constrained by. Find out what role practice and experience played in the catch. Discover why Odell’s large hands were critical in getting a 46mph football to come to a stop in about 2/10 of a second with just 3 fingertips. Explore how having one foot on the ground helped Beckham apply torque to keep from over-rotating and pull the ball back in bounds. Next up, Gary and Chuck welcome guest Joe Bevier, Nike’s Senior Football Innovation Designer, to discuss the technology of Odell’s gloves. You’ll learn how the co-efficient of friction figures into glove design using materials like silicone and neoprene, and why different positions require different kinds of gloves with different areas of articulation and padding. Listen in as Joe explains how the biggest changes in football are not in technology, but in player training, and how the technology needs to keep up. Last, but certainly not least, Jay Norvell, the former Wide Receiver Coach at ASU who is now the head coach at University of Nevada and the author of The Complete Wide Receiver, talks with Gary and Chuck about what makes a great wide receiver, and the difference between playing at the college level and in the NFL. You’ll also hear how players are now regularly practicing to do the “impossible” from very young ages, and training at higher levels of intensity than ever before. Plus, comedian James L. Mattern stops by to comment on why Odell’s catch is the greatest catch of all time – even better than Jay-Z catching Beyoncé or Donald Trump catching the presidency.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Playing with Science – The Science of “The Catch.”

In This Episode

  • Host

    Gary O'Reilly

    Gary O'Reilly
    Sports Analyst, Broadcaster, Professional Soccer Player
  • Host

    Chuck Nice

    Chuck Nice
    Comedian
  • Guest

    John Eric Goff

    John Eric Goff
    Physicist & Author of “Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports”
  • Guest

    Joe Bevier
    Senior Football Innovation Designer, Nike
  • Guest

    Jay Norvell

    Jay Norvell
    Head Coach at University of Nevada, former Wide Receiver Coach at ASU, author, The Complete Wide Reciever
  • Guest

    James Mattern

    James L. Mattern
    Comedian

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Episode Topics

  • Nick

    Better than the first one. But I hope it wont be only about American football. And I would like a little bit more actual physics. Good luck.

    • Thanks, Nick. Don’t worry… we just started with football because of proximity to the big game. We’ve got episodes planned on cycling, hockey, basketball, soccer, swimming, sprinting, and more. Full disclosure: there will be more episodes about football in the future, too, including one on the Immaculate Reception.

      • Nick

        Thanks.

        I wonder if you take suggestion regarding some games or situations where a ball or a player seems to defy the laws of physics?
        And by the way I think Formula 1 could be an interesting subject to due to high technology used there and the extreme G the pilots are enduring. The fact that I’m a Formula 1 fan have NOTHING to do with that. 🙂
        Thanks again and good luck. (Yeah, I know, scientists don’t believe in luck :))

        • Nick: We love suggestions! Please do… and you’re right about F1 racing.

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