Although I always have been – and will always be – a Dallas Cowboys diehard, I got away from watching football games in general for a few years and have only started watching some games this season. I have many close friends who are Philadelphia Eagles fans, and I will occasionally watch their games, because I have no ill will towards the Eagles – except when they are playing the Cowboys, of course!
Upon my recent return to watching football games, I experienced seeing a lot of “taunting” calls, and assumed (yes, I know what assume does) that this was a new rule. I was surprised, when I did a little bit of research, to find out that the taunting rule and penalty has been around for a while and has been conversed about for several years in offseason competition committee meetings. Apparently, it’s been deemed that it’s happening too often and now the referees are throwing a yellow flag left and right to call this penalty. The NFL considers taunting to be “trying to entice that other player into some type of activity that is not allowed in football”, “the use of baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.” The penalty falls under ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’ and there are penalties in the amount of yardage gained in a play. A player who gets two taunting calls in one game is automatically ejected from the game. There are hefty fines that can also be attached to the call.
I’m going to go out on a limb a bit here. I’m not against the rule of taunting, but I truly believe that, after doing little or nothing for so many years about it, the pendulum has swung to the other side of the clock and there are too many penalties being called for it. These professional athletes are being paid millions of dollars to intentionally get their bodies pummeled by others and a few words from a player on the other team is going to hurt them? Football is a contact sport – one expects some flair of tempers among the amounts of aggression of adrenaline and testosterone that are released on the field. Put your finger in my face and say, “I’m gonna kill your kid and make you watch for hitting me like that” – Yeah, that’s taunting. Put that same finger in my face and say, “I’m coming after you next play, so watch out” – not so much.
Take it a step further and think about how many coaches get angry and loud, probably somewhat obnoxiously, at a referee when they don’t like a calling? We can’t hear it, but we can certainly see the level of anger when the TV camera pans that way from mere body language. Why are these non-athletic officials able to walk away from the anger without reaction – why aren’t these coaches penalized on behalf of their team for this same behavior that the refs seem to constantly be penalizing to the players?
Now, since I’m already out on the limb, let me take a few more steps out… For four (long) years, we in the United States watched our President, our Commander in Chief, our highest-ranking political leader, stand in front of a microphone and taunt the countless number of people who dared disagree with him. Major players were in and out of “his graces” all of the time, and he had the right of free speech allowing him to say the things he said. The true Trumpsters, at re-election time, stated that the rest of us were more upset about his persona and his words than about the good he did during his term. Whether you are a Trumpster or not, a Republican or a Democrat, be honest enough to say that his words and tirades instilled enough fear in all of us that we weren’t willing to risk standing up and putting up a dissent about his being allowed to behave like that. Personally, every time I saw Donald Trump release more vitriol when he opened his mouth, I couldn’t help but think about how much time, energy and money our country spends to stop bullying and practice acceptance in our school systems, but we will allow the President to be a bully without trying to stop him. Children emulate adult behaviors, so what should we come to expect in the future from our children?
My point is, again, that I am not opposed to this ruling of taunting when it can be proved to be hateful and harmful in word, but I think there need to be better boundaries about what is considered taunting. We are able to list what constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct in a physical manner to another player, so I think some guidelines need to be in place for what verbal conduct constitutes it as well.
Anyway, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!