A bang bang play involves multiple events occurring at once or quickly, one after another. It is a term that can be used to describe plays in various sports, including a number of scenarios in football. Because bang bang plays are used to describe a play that happens so quickly, they often lead to difficult calls being made and challenge flags being thrown to argue such calls.
One example of a bang bang play is determining a catch to be complete or incomplete. When watching a potential catch, an official must decide whether or not a player has control of the ball, and if he has touched the ground inbounds with both feet or another part of his body, excluding his hands. If he/she believes that the receiver does have control and lands inbounds, the official must then decide if the receiver actually maintains possession of the ball for a long enough time to be considered a runner.
When a player just barely taps his toes to the sideline while making a catch, or the player loses possession after a supposed catch is made, resulting in an incomplete pass or fumble, an official needs to make a number of quick decisions. If the official is unsure that all of this resulted in what is considered to be a catch, than he/she is told to call the catch incomplete everytime in order to be uniform in his/her decisions.
Another example of a bang bang play is in regard to pass interference. Pass interference is defined by a defensive player making major contact with a receiver before a passed ball reaches the receiver.
Pass interference will not be called if the contact between the defensive player and the receiver occurs at the same time, or at least what appears to be the same time to the official in real time. This kind of play would be too difficult to determine correctly every time, so it is not considered a penalty by the officials. Much like the incomplete pass call, the purpose of this ruling is to maintain uniformity and consistency among calls like this.