January 04, 2008

Flag On The Play!: Was that really cheating?

(The following is less of a thought piece than it is a light rant. Sometimes, you just have to get something off your mind.)

Is there anything more frustrating as a football fan than watching your team get penalized for something that really doesnít seem to matter that much? It happens a lot. This isnít about bad calls, but about bad rules.

It is my personal opinion that a team should only be assessed a yardage penalty if one of these four conditions are met:

1) A player/team gets an unfair advantage (offsides, holding, etc.)
2) A player does something that has a high risk of injury (chop blocks, clipping, etc.)
3) A player/team does something to improperly disrupt the flow of play (delay of game)
4) A player/coach makes physical contact or argues excessively with an official

Every sport has justifiable penalties for these sorts of transgressions, whether it means free throws, sitting in the penalty box, or being ejected from the game. Football, however, goes beyond these bounds and penalizes teams for reasons that donít fit any of the above; things that qualify more as technicalities than cheating. Though there are more, three particular penalites come to mind:

False start. There isnít much that looks sillier on the football field than when an offensive lineman flinches slightly, and a bunch of defensive players simply point at him to try to get a penalty called.

I am not suggesting that all false start penalties should be abolished. There are, however, far too many for my liking. If a lineman jumps out of his crouch and starts trying to block a guy before the play starts, thatís perfectly legitimate. The ďflinch-and-pointĒ scenario, however, should not result in a penalty. No advantage was gained, and nobody has ever been injured due to a false start that I can recall.

So letís establish a new rule for false starts: If an offensive player lifts his hand or moves his feet, or if the center moves the ball, itís a penalty. Otherwise, itís ignored. Defensive linemen should simply watch the ball instead of the linemen to determine when to go.

Illegal formation. This one may just be me, but the most baffling rule on the books in my eyes is the number of players the offensive team has to have on the line of scrimmage. Thereís little thatís more frustrating than watching your team run off a big play, only to have it called back because there were only six men on the line. Itís frustrating because of its complete irrelevance to the play most of the time.

While Iím one of those who would be perfectly content to let everyone aside from the center line up wherever they felt like, I recognize that this would be too difficult for defenses to deal with. I also understand the reasoning behind the linemen needing to be up close to the ball, as this affects the difficulty of pass-blocking. Beyond that, I say let the eligible receivers line up as they please. If they want to be 5 yards back from the line, fine. If they all want to be on the same side of the ball, give it a go.

Excessive celebration. This penalty has evolved over the years in an attempt to set an example for younger viewers. And itís working really well, isnít it? (Hope your sarcasm detector is working.)

Look, I like the players who get to the end zone and ďact like theyíve been there beforeĒ. And watching linebackers who celebrate after tackling a running back who just gained 15 yards is stupid. Some playersí TD celebrations are silly and the game can do without them. That being said, such antics do not qualify in any of the four conditions above and should not result in yardage penalties. This is a bigger problem in college than in the pros, where so many officials are so ridiculously strict where they might as well be penalizing the player (and the team...and its fans...) for ďbeing happyĒ.

I could go on, but the point has been made. Let's penalize cheating and dangerous actions, but let's filter out what doesn't really matter. Your mileage may vary, of course.

posted by TheQatarian to commentary at 12:31 PM - 0 comments

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