Preposterous Penalty for Playfulness

Ty Soutas, Sports Editor

Nothing drives a fan crazier than a flag-happy referee. The guys in stripes find too much plea­sure in tossing their yellow flags in the air, tooting on their whistles, and making cod­ed hand signals. While it is always good to have rules and regulations put into place to prevent dirty or bad behavior, once rules become nonsensical and overly restrictive, it can be irritating to the fans, to the athletes, and especial­ly to the coaches. Sports are full of plenty of contro­versial rules or penalties that are enforced, but a great majority of fans feel like these penalties are simply not needed.

In football especially, there are many rules that are quite ridiculous. One in particular is when a football player is penalized for being too happy after a nice play he made, or for drawing too much atten­tion to himself.

In Bingham’s romp of Bonneville in the sea­son opener, senior tight end, Dalton Schultz , was flagged for raising the football in the air shortly before he made his way into the endzone on a 60-yard touchdown strike from quarterback, Kyle Gearig. The touchdown was not negated, but a 15-yard penalty was as­sessed to the kickoff.

“I wasn’t trying to taunt anybody, I wasn’t trying to put them down like I was better,” said Dal­ton. “It was the first game of the year with high emotions. It was just like a spur of the moment type of thing, and I didn’t think anything of it, but at the same time I prob­ably should have been a little smarter about it,” he said.

Ac­cording to rule 9-5-1 in the high school football rule­book, “any delayed, excessive, or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus at­tention upon himself in the process of scoring a touchdown–if he (a) holds and waves the ball over­head the last 10 yards; or (b) after crossing the goal line, he momentar­ily raises the ball overhead, but then quickly drops it to the ground–” it is an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Ac­cord­ing to the State Rules Interpreter for High School football, Doug Golding, “ Rules are rules, regardless of wheth­er you agree with them or not. If you think the speed limit is way too slow in your neigh­borhood, you still have to obey that speed limit or you stand the chance of getting a ticket, even if you think it’s dumb,” he explained.

Sure, rules are rules and players should abide by them , but why should it matter if a player gets excited for making a great play? If the fans can get excited, then why can’t the players show their emotion as well, as long as they are not excessive, derogatory, or as long as they are not ridicul­ing another player. These are the only reasons a flag should be thrown.

The penalty for getting too happy has been a problem nation­wide. In a few states other than Utah, if a play­er were to celebrate pre­maturely, the touch­down would not count. A couple of years ago in Boston, Mas­sachusetts, Cathedral High quar­ter­back, Matt Owens, was on his way for the go-ahead touchdown to win the state title. Filled with adrenaline, he un­consciously hoisted his arm above his head–just as Schultz did. But flags flew, and the touch­down was called back. Ca­thedral High lost the state title and the Boston com­munity erupted. Cathedral High’s athletic director, James Lynch, described his feelings towards the celebration penalty:

“I just give people the analogy: Imagine a basket­ball player making a clutch 3-point­er right at the end of the game, and he turns around and he just kind of shakes his fist in the air kind of thing. And it was simply just that and it was nothing else…. I don’t think it was anything fur­ther than just excitement on the player’s behalf,” he told The Boston Globe.

Furthermore, showing downright disrespect for your opponent is what should be penalized. Texas A&M Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel, is a prime example of this. While its okay to show some swag, it is just not neces­sary to taunt. Do the talking through your per­formance, and don’t go barking at the official or to the opposing team because your coach just might yank you out of the game as did Johnny Foot­ball’s head coach, Kevin Sumlin.

“That wasn’t very smart and that’s why he didn’t go back in the game,” Sumlin told ESPN after their sea­son opener against Rice. “I hoped that at this point he’d have learned some­thing.”

This is one of the reasons high school officials as well as the NCAA and NFL have come cracking down hard on unsportsmanlike penalties. It is because of play­ers like Manziel who think they are the face of college football, and that they are the exception to the rule. As good as he is, Manziel should know better.

There should be no penal­ty for celebrating, only for taunting. Penalties should mostly be put into place to prevent injuries and cheap plays. Does it really hurt the feelings of the oppos­ing team that badly when doing a little touchdown salsa in the endzone?