During the Oregon-Arizona football game last night, people could be heard in watering holes – and homes – everywhere complaining about, what else, the officials. In addition to quite a few flags during the contest (16 altogether – seven against Arizona, nine against Oregon for a total of 134 yards), there were a couple of unsportsmanlike penalties, one on each team – both at crucial times.
The first was following an Oregon third and five from the Wildcats’ 23 yard line with 10:33 to go in the third quarter. It came after an incomplete pass which probably would have resulted in the Ducks attempting a 40 yard field goal. However, a flag was thrown well after the play had ended and, after seeing the replay, the only possible explanation for it was taunting. That resulted in an automatic first down – at the 12 yard line. Two plays later, Oregon scored.
The next unsportsmanlike call came when Arizona was inside the Oregon 10 with a third and goal. The Ducks’ Tony Washington pulled off a huge sack which would have held Arizona to a field goal (attempt). Except, following his stellar defensive play, Washington ran from around the 10 yard line to midfield, with a teammate alongside (telling him not to hotdog it?) and decided to take a bow in front of the capacity crowd. He made the crucial stop, everybody knew he made it and yet, he felt compelled to run 40 or so yards to showcase himself to the home crowd.
ESPN anchor Neil Everett, an Oregon grad, called it “quite a questionable celebration penalty.” Was Everett teasing the audience, 90% of whom understand his bias? Or did he think, “Aw, c’mon, let the kid have some fun!” Unless you, or someone you know, were sitting next to him when the call was made (Stan Verrett, guys in the studio?), that answer is unknown.
Both of the calls (assuming the taunting was for “unacceptable words”) were justified. And they were enforced because of the new rule which tries to take unnecessary gloating, or individualism, out of the ultimate team game. Today’s players need to understand that there are boundaries that can’t be crossed and when they are, you – and in this case, your team – will pay. Maybe with an L in place of a W. That hurts, especially when your team is #2 in the nation (or attempting to beat #2 in the nation).
It’s been known for a long, long time that young, talented football players (let’s keep it to football players for this blog) are pampered – from the recruiting period (and the accompanying campus visits) to the uniforms they wear (including all the ancillary items that make up the player the fans see) and the food they eat – in order to play one of the most violent games imaginable. On campus, win or lose, many are revered. If they’re fortunate enough to, as the saying goes, “play on Sundays” (and Mondays and Thursdays and any other day – or location – that will make the NFL money), they are furthered enabled.
If a young man doesn’t have it together (the one thing that’s not given to him is a moral compass), this could lead to narcissistic behavior. And we’ve seen what that can lead to. More than once. A lot more. And the stories keep on piling up.
Long ago I remember the late Stephen Covey explaining a person’s existence on this earth. What he said was no doubt behind the thinking of the new unsportsmanlike penalties. Covey’s statement was:
“It’s not about you. You’re part of something bigger.”