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The NFL is cracking down on taunting, and while people are up in arms, I'm their number one fan.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Wade EvansonI am the greatest!

Seriously, I'm the best sportswriter this side of Dan Jenkins, and to be honest he likely couldn't hold my proverbial jock.

Forget respect for his laundry list of accomplishments including his World Golf Hall of Fame induction for lifetime achievement, his Red Smith Award, Ring Lardner Award for Excellence in Sports Journalism and his more than 20 published books, including Semi-Tough, Baja Oklahoma and Dead Solid Perfect, all of which were made into movies. Those things and his dedication to the art form mean little to me in my effort to direct as much attention as possible to me and what I'm doing right now.

After all, the world is my oyster and I'm going to get mine, with little regard for the people who paved the way and/or have or continue to help me on the road to my 15 minutes of fame to be named later.

Just kidding.

I'm guessing that rubbed you the wrong way. Heck, it made me uncomfortable just typing it! But what I just did is the sports journalistic version of exactly what the National Football League is hoping to eliminate with the taunting penalties their enforcing this season.

For nearly three months now the NFL has drawn the ire of talking heads on both local and national sports talk programming from coast to coast for their crusade to clean up the trash — talk, that is.

They're tired of the woofing, the hand gestures, the degradation and the rest of the me-first theatrics that take far more from the game than they give, and in an effort to rein it in they're throwing flags.

And I love it!

People will tell you they're taking the emotion out of the game, and that it's almost criminal to expect these players to play such an intense sport without at least the ability to express themselves in the process. And maybe they're right? After all, mimicking a first down after every catch must be so liberating. Spinning the ball in the face of your opponent in the wake of catching a 12-yard out route has to be cathartic. And repeatedly trash-talking the defensive back, receiver or lineman across from you, or mocking them in the wake of a big play is what sport has been about since its inception centuries ago.

Why change it now? I'll tell you why, because it's not liberating, cathartic, or 'how it's always been,' it's just disrespectful and we've come to accept it — until now.

Don't cave on this NFL. Don't let people tell you that respect is old fashioned or humorless.

Football — despite being played on Sundays — isn't church. No one is asking these guys to be on their best behavior, speak eloquently or love thy neighbor, but it's not too much to ask to commit your violent acts with an ounce of sportsmanship.

Kevin Durant — like Charles Barkley did nearly four decades ago — made it hip to say he and his professional sports brethren aren't role models last week. Unlike Chaz, who did it in a commercial, KD did so by way of Twitter in response to selective outrage over his language in a tweet. Now, while I'm certainly no saint, in addition to having far more on my plate than to get worked up over a curse word on Twitter, it's ignorant for any of these celebrities to make claims the likes of Chuck and more recently KD.

Celebrities — and in this case athletes — are role models, like it or not, and with that comes a level of responsibility that a mature adult should take seriously. That doesn't mean they have to be perfect, but they should at least act with an awareness of their platform in mind. That's what the NFL is asking of its players, and I don't think that's a whole heck of a lot to ask.

Go to a youth game and watch closely how the kids act. They mimic the guys they see on television, and if they're talking trash, they talk trash. If they're dancing, they dance. And if they're taunting, they taunt. Sure, coaches and parents should nip that in the bud at the youth level, but they often don't for the very reason they — at least did — allow it in the higher ranks; because time and tolerance has told them it's OK.

Well, the NFL now says it isn't, and I'm OK with that.


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