So I’m watching the Georgia – LSU game on Saturday. Number fourteen versus number four between the hedges in front of over 92,000. Georgia quarterback Joe Cox throws sixteen yards to receiver AJ Green for the go-ahead touchdown. The crowd goes bonkers, Green is immediately surrounded by some teammates who shake him by his shoulders, smack him on the helmet, and there’s a shoulder bump or two thrown in for good measure. At no time does Green point at an opposing player, gesture to the opponent's bench, leap into the stands, perform any kind of skit involving the football, or in any way engage in any self aggrandizing activities. Yet what does he get as a reward for his nice catch and genuine display of non-excessive joy shared with his teammates? You guessed it; he got flagged with a fifteen yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Now that’s not the kind of thing our forefathers had intended, is it? And just in case you’re skeptical, maybe thinking that I’m slanting the truth, omitting some facts, or downplaying the celebration, take a look for yourself….
An SEC official stated afterwards that the referee judged that Green had “separated himself from the group and sort of went to the stands in an act of self-congratulation”. Is that what you saw? Me neither. To their credit, another SEC official stated on Monday that the referee had made an error in judgment and should not have thrown the flag. But that was two days too late for the Bulldogs. The fifteen yard penalty forced them to kickoff from their own 15 instead of the 30. Those fifteen yards along with another five yard procedure penalty led to LSU returning the kick back to the Georgia 43. The Tigers had been given new life. Two plays later, they were in the end zone. The upset party was cancelled, most of the 92,000-plus sat in a shocked silence, and Georgia’s chances for a national title had all but disappeared. Oh, and after the LSU touchdown, they were also flagged for an equally ridiculous unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for their “celebration”. Luckily for them, there wasn’t much time left on the clock.
Now sure, Georgia’s defense could’ve and perhaps should’ve bowed its back and kept LSU from marching those final 43 yards into the end zone but that‘s not the point. The point is; does the NCAA really want potentially game-changing penalties based on a referee’s assessment of a player’s emotional intent? More importantly, do we the fans want that? I’ll answer that for all of us…. Hell no. As you’ve seen, AJ Green did nothing wrong and did not deserve a flag but I honestly wouldn’t feel any differently even if he had acted like a jackass. He could’ve taken off his helmet, kissed his own biceps, then yelled “I’m the greatest! I did this all by myself! . It’s all about AJ. AJ is da man and AJ cannot be stopped! Praise to God who loves me the best.”, and I still wouldn’t have wanted to see a flag.
Where else does the NCAA penalize student athletes for boasting, excessive celebrating or even alleged perceived intent to boast or excessively celebrate? They don’t do it in baseball. Have you ever seen an umpire award a team an extra out because an opposing batter stood too long at home plate to admire a homerun? Never. And if the pitcher thought that the batter was showing him up, he’d deliver a fastball to his ribs the next time he came to the plate. They don’t penalize it in basketball either. Ever seen an official call a technical foul on a player for hitting himself in the chest repeatedly to not-so-subtly tell the crowd that he really plays with a lot of heart? Never. And if the other team thought that he was a little too full of himself, odds are that he’d wind up knocked into the second row on his next attempt at a layup. They also don’t penalize it in hockey. Ever see a hockey ref make a team play shorthanded because of a player scoring a goal then raising his stick and fist-pumping to the crowd? Never. And if his opponents thought him to be a little too exuberant, he’d likely get cross checked into the boards without prejudice within minutes. We could go right on down the list but in no other sport do they concern themselves with regulating and penalizing narcissistic displays of satisfaction. So why worry about it in football?
My guess is that they don’t ever want a repeat of the Miami, FL – Florida International brawl of 2006. That was a nasty fight and I don’t blame anyone wanting to guard against that type of incident but those types of melees usually have seeds that were planted years ago and often times born out of things that happened off of the football field. A couple simple “Hey world, look at me” moments simply aren’t going to set off Armageddon on the gridiron. Plus, isn’t it everyone’s right as a US citizen to be an a-hole if you want to be? There are no laws against being an a-hole. If there was, we’d need a four-story jailhouse on every corner. Life’s full of run-ins with a-holes and the sooner these college kids learn to deal with it, the better. How one deals with an a-hole says a lot about one’s character, drive and determination.
As the movie Caddyshack showed us, there are three ways, metaphorically speaking, to deal with an a-hole. You can handle it like Judge Smails; slice your shot into the woods, turn red, grit your teeth, hurl your club eighty yards into a crowd dining on the patio, then blame your caddy for not changing the grips on the club. You can handle it like Ty Webb; smile knowingly, hum a little tune, sink your putts, then go grab the hot blonde and sing to her about being born to lick her face. Or you can handle it like Carl Spackler; slowly lose what’s left of your mind and then systematically destroy the golf course with powdered explosives.
When these players leave college, they’re either headed to a job out in the real world (not the MTV Real World, the actual real world), or, for some of them, a life in the National Football League. In either case, they’re going to have to deal with a-holes in the workplace. Lots of ‘em. All the time. Some working with them, some working for them, and some working against them. These a-holes will make Rodney Dangerfield and that gopher seem like well-mannered altar boys (and altar rodents) by comparison. So it’s important for these kids to learn how to react more like Ty and less like Smails or Spackler.
The NCAA would surely argue that teaching these young adults to be respectful and humble is a valuable lesson. Indeed it is. But it’s also valuable to learn to celebrate one’s accomplishments, to learn for one’s self where the line lies between exuberance and boastfulness, and how best to deal with people who cross that line. When it comes to discussing matters of compensating players or any kind of preferential treatment to college athletes, the NCAA is very quick to remind everyone that these are student athletes. Indeed they are. But it’s not the NCAA Rules Committee’s job to teach them. That’s the job of the universities. More accurately, it’s the job of the coaches, professors, and parents. Allow them to teach. Allow the student athletes to learn from them and the room to learn a little more about themselves. Allow the fans to share in the players’ youthful exuberance.
I don’t have a bulldog in the fight but I fully believe that Georgia would have, and should have, won that game if not for that penalty and that the NCAA needs to get that rule off the books as soon as possible before another team gets screwed by it. But if they don’t and it does happen again, I truly hope that the player getting flagged goes all Pacino in And Justice for All on their asses.
Now,on with the matchups….
Bengals at Ravens-
Both teams are 3-1 but they’re different 3-1’s, aren’t they? The Ravens first quarter of the season has seemed relatively low maintenance. The Bengals first quarter of the season has been mentally exhausting. It’s like the Ravens are the guy who went out a Friday night, picked up the hottest girl in the bar, went back to her place, got crazy, then managed to leave without waking her in the middle of the night, snagging half of a baked ham out of her fridge on the way out the door. Meanwhile, the Bengals have been like the guy who waited around until last call, picked up the sloppy drunk girl who then puked on him, puked in his car, forgot where she lived, had to be carried up the steps, started babbling about her ex, finally gave it up, then started crying and threw a vase at him as he tried to escape in the middle of the night. Sure he scored, but now he’s left feeling not fully satisfied, somewhat embarrassed, mentally drained, and wondering if he still has a clean bill of health.
And to make things worse, my guess is this will be the weekend when the sloppy drunk girl’s over-protective brother shows up to sucker-punch him in the face.
Vikings at Rams-
Time for this week’s pop quiz…
Which portly and controversial radio personality is apparently making a bid to buy the St. Louis Rams?
A) Rush Limbaugh
B) Glenn Beck
C) Artie Lange
D) Bill “Seg” Dennison
Answer: A) Rush Limbaugh.
Although sources on the street also tell me that Seg and a secret angel investor are joining forces to attempt a hostile takeover of the Green Bay Packers.
Buccaneers at Eagles-
Because of their bye last week, Andy Reid’s had two weeks to prepare his squad for the Bucs. Does anyone need two weeks to prepare for the Bucs? I think just two days of practice, a day of film study, and eleven days on a tequila-Red Bull-Nyquil carousel and you’d be okay.
Skins at Shirts (Panthers)-
Hey, it’s Cheerleader Posedown Time! skins 90, skins91
By the way, someone just told me that a tequila - Red Bull - Nyquil mix is referred to as a Sleepy Bloody Matador. Who knew?
Steelers at Lions-
The Lions have given up 12 touchdown passes already this season. My God, who are their corners, Anthony Henry and William James? Oh, well.…um…. yes. Yes they are.
Raiders at Giants-
Word out of Giant Land is that Eli has some kind of foot disease or something. Maybe it’s a broken bone, I don’t know. Does it really matter? Do you even need a quarterback nowadays to beat the Raiders? Okay, maybe if you’re the Chiefs. Actually to be fair, their defense has been adequate. The stench coming from that side of the Bay is Jamarcus Russell. He’s managed just one touchdown pass so far and is averaging a whopping 119 yards passing per game. As a general rule, it’s not good when your passing yards per game is less than half of your body weight.
Cowboys at Chiefs-
From the first time I saw Tony Romo sitting on the bench with his hat on backwards, I knew he looked like somebody but I’ve never been able to put my finger on it. Until now.
He was the skinny cartoon dude in the Money for Nothing video…
Browns at Bills-
Call me crazy but I believe this game has “Hi, this is Don Criqui alongside Beasley Reese” written all over it.
And for you gamblers, Vegas odds makers have the over/under on this one set at 38.
Oh, no, not 38 points. It’s the over/under for how many people are going to tune in to watch.
Falcons at Niners-
So let me get this straight. Michael Crabtree turned down a five year contract with $16million guaranteed and held out through the first four weeks of the season, sacrificing four game checks along the way, only to Wednesday sign a six year contract with $17million guaranteed?
To celebrate his new contract, Crabtree went to the butcher shop and stocked up on some prime rib. The butcher had a special of $75 for four pounds but Crabtree didn’t need quite that much so he shrewdly haggled with the butcher, leaving with three pounds of prime rib for just $70.
Do they not have math requirements at Texas Tech?
Texans at Cardinals-
I know the Texans aren’t much of a draw but what in the hell is up with this?
These are the defending NFL Champs, people. I guess this is what happens when you’re a transplanted team with a horrible track record, located in a warm-weather state full of former mobsters on the witness protection program, and you’ve gotten off to a 1-2 start. The bandwagon has hit a cactus and toppled over.
Patriots at Broncos-
There are many modern mysteries in our world. Where is Jimmy Hoffa's body? What happened to DB Cooper? Who was the Zodiac Killer? What really happened at Area 51? What is causing the Taos Hum? Where in the world is that Carmen San Diego? How does David Spade keep landing hot chicks?
We can now add another one to the list- How in the name of Jesus H. Elway are the Denver Donkeys 4-0? I have a paranormal specialist, two private investigators, and a team of professors from MIT searching for answers as we speak.
Jaguars at Seahawks-
Okay, the Jack Del Rio Farewell Tour is now officially on hold. Those of you who have tickets, hold on to them. If the tour resumes, you will be permitted to use them at any tour stop, and if not, you may redeem them for any one of a number of lovely items from our catalog.
Colts at Titans-
According to one of my brother in law's medical books, a "Code Blue": Generally is used to indicate a patient requiring immediate resuscitation, most often as the result of a cardiac arrest. May also be used as a radio call to indicate that a patient en route to the hospital requires resuscitation.
Uh, so just how appropriate is this?
For the record, falling to 0-5 would escalate it to a Code Brown. And yes, that does mean that they've defecated on themselves.
Jets at Dolphins-
All together now…. J! E! T! S! Suck! SUCK!! SUCK!!!
Until next week, I shall leave you with this....