Evanson: When did taunting become so important to the game?
The sky may in fact be falling.
Why, you might ask? Because the NFL is enforcing a rule it clearly stated before the season that it would be enforcing, and of course, people don't like it.
I get it, taunting — or lack thereof — like speeding, smoking pot back in the day or counting all your strokes in golf, is one of those things that people feel is more of an inconvenience than a law.
Sure, there are well-defined rules as to what you can and can no longer do in the NFL when it comes to showing-up your opponent, but strangely — or not so much — when the league threw flag after flag for said behavior this past Sunday, fans, analysts and players cried a river about the rule that's "ruining the game."
First and foremost, nothing's ruining football. It's hands-down this country's most popular sport, and despite the ever-growing concern over the physical ramifications of playing the game, it's appointment television for millions of this country's sports fans up to four days per week.
Second, let's quit acting like taunting is part of what makes the game great to begin with, nor that — unlike targeting — it's difficult to manage between the lines or officiate. Players can simply stop doing this. If you don't like the punishment, quit committing the crime. Plain and simple.
And third, enough with the "Exhibit A is ruining the game" arguments in general. There are a number of things when it comes to sports that alter my viewing experience, but in the end, they're not spoiling it — they're just diminishing it a bit.
Is instant replay good for the game? It often doesn't feel like it in the moment, and if it were up to me, I'd likely abolish it all together, but it does provide a safety net for a potentially catastrophic result due to error, and for that alone, it's worth the time. After all, we're swimming in a sea of tears over a handful of meaningless unsportsmanlike penalties during the NFL's Week 3, just imagine the outrage if there were an obvious missed touchdown or turnover in the waning moments of a playoff game or Super Bowl?
What about the helmet-to-helmet, hands-to-the-face, and/or roughing-the-passer penalties that have been emphasized in recent years — are those great? Not when it comes to the Saturday, Sunday or Monday night watch, but they have the best interests of the game's future and the overall health of its players in mind, so I too can deal with that.
Which brings us to the taunting: Is this really something you can't live without?
When people talk about "hills they're willing to die on," is this one of them?
Dudes commemorating irrelevant first-quarter incompletions by mimicking the officials signal for such; players jawing back-and-forth after a play; celebrating a hard hit in the face of said hit's victim; all things subject to penalty under the league's new rules, and apparently the things analysts and fans of the game can't live without.
I'm old school, which means I'm more of an "act like you've been there before" kind of guy. That doesn't mean I'm anti-celebration or anti-fun, but it does mean I believe that — like in all sports — respecting your opponent matters. Which is why I don't see taunting as a means of entertainment, but rather a childish form of disrespecting the game and the people you're playing against.
This too shall pass. Seemingly every year, the NFL puts their crosshairs on something they'd like to regulate, notifies the players of such and legislates the heck out of it early in the year to make their point. As a result, the players fall in line — a bit. The league and its owners relax — a bit more. And ultimately, the officials allow the rule and the behavior surrounding it to regress a bit to the mean — and the game survives the process.
So, is the sky falling? Likely not, but neither is the game without the taunting I, for one, can live without. And trust me — you can too.
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