Silent Generation Speaks, Listen Up!
Rule # 1 – Excessive Celebration
In 1984 the NFL enacted an extension of the unsportsmanlike conduct rule to include prolonged excessive premeditated celebration by an individual player or group of players. It was called the Mark Gastineau Rule, making his Sack Dance performed when he sacked an opposing quarterback illegal, calling for a 15 yard penalty. Such conduct was not acceptable behavior by athletes, and it lengthened the game, which is often one of the causes for games to go over their TV time slot, creating problems for the networks and unhappy viewers who miss the last minutes of a game.
What was allowed?
Players could spike or dunk the ball, spin, dance or do the Lambeau Leap. Then in 2004 the NFL acted like lawyers and further defined what was and was not excessive celebration. You had to stay on your feet, no push ups, sit ups, boat rowing, snow angels, or worm angels, and no foreign or extraneous objects may be used that are not part of the uniform. And why do they allow the gorilla like yell after a sack? All the player did was what he is paid millions to do, tackle the guy with the ball. There’s nothing heroic about that. You never saw Ray Nitschke act like that after a sack, or John Riggins or Jerry Rice perform such childish antics after scoring a touchdown.
Solution # 1
Baseball players don’t perform a “oh look at me” ritual when they hit a home run; nor do basketball players when they hit a 3-pointer, a golfer making a hole-in-one, or a hockey player after making a goal. They simply do a fist pump or high five as play continues. The NFL ought to apply the KISS principle. Limit any celebration to the norm in other sports – only fist pumps and high fives are allowed, period.
Rule # 2 Head Tackling
Article 8 Section 2 of Rule 12 is several paragraphs long (again, written by a lawyer) but says simply “If a player uses any part of his helmet to butt, spear or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily . . . is impermissible.”
The violent, egregious, danger to the players involved is growing worse as the immediate penalty for such unnecessary roughness is a mere 15 yards. Play is delayed, injured players have to come out for at least one play, some are even unable to return, and yet the violator remains on the field to exact even more mayhem on the opposing team, almost with impunity. It is only the next day he might learn the League has started fined him several tens of thousands of dollars. Of course he and his agent will appeal the fine and we will probably never hear whether or not he actually paid the fine, or his agent or a sponsor paid it for him. Such fines are miniscule to the millions of dollars the players make anyway, so it means nothing more to them than a $10 parking ticket would to me. Every week the League rules on more and more such violations, and the violence continues to escalate.
Solution # 2
Instead of calling a penalty and allowing the violator to continue playing, eject him from the game. That will have as serious an impact on his team as the loss of the injured player to his team. Players and coaches will be far more concerned about the performance of their teammates when it effects the outcome of the game. Games and championships could be lost due to the violent unsportsmanlike conduct of one football player who thinks he is exempt from playing by the rules.