Golden Tate was placed on this earth to make the NFL look bad. His game-winning “touchdown” against Green Bay obliterated the NFL’s contention that replacement officials were doing a suitable job. That was ultimately a good thing, unless you’re the Packers.
The way he Cadillac’d against the Rams wasn’t so great, because now the NFL is talking about adopting the NCAA’s archaic rules regarding taunting. For those who don’t watch college football, their taunting rules are the worst.
During college games, taunting flags can reverse scoring plays. That might sound reasonable in principle, especially to the easily offended (translation: self-righteous and/or old) football viewer. But what the rules create is a police state every time a team scores a touchdown or successfully pulls off a two-point conversion, with those in power wielding whistles and flags instead of badges and guns. The officials stare the players down in the end zone until they head to the sidelines, waiting (almost hoping) for someone to spike a football, point at an opposing player or — gasp — dance!
There is nothing worse than watching a 20-year-old score a touchdown, followed by a middle-aged man taking points off the board because he can.
Down by seven in the final seconds, Jake Locker ran for a touchdown, and flipped the ball up in the air. The touchdown stood in this case (scoring plays weren’t nullified by taunting penalties until 2011), but the penalty made the extra point a 35-yard try which was subsequently blocked by BYU.
The point is this: tell officials that they have the power to change the game if they think a specific gesture fits the definition of “taunting,” and they’ll screw things up most of the time.
Some might say excess celebration is what’s wrong with sports, but what’s worse is pretending things didn’t happen (like scoring plays) because we’re uncomfortable with how they occurred. Sort of like how MLB has treated its “steroid era.”
The NFL always seemed a little more willing to treat their adults like … adults. Sure, the fines for wearing the wrong color cleats or socks low enough to show a little calf are often higher than those levied on a player who knees someone in the groin. But for the most part, the league has stayed away from legislating emotion.
A team of officials came to the 49ers facility during training camp and briefed both the team and the reporters on rules changes, which included a new one where an offensive player can’t lower his head and make contact with the crown of his helmet once outside the pocket. They also focused on new taunting rules, the gist being that players can’t gesture toward an opponent during or after a play.
Clearly the NFL doesn’t think the new mandates went far enough, thanks to Tate. But can we all agree that reversing scores based on etiquette is completely asinine? It would certainly be a deterrent, because a player who took away a touchdown with some pointing, waving and high-stepping would incur the wrath of his coaches. Cutting off a thief’s hand was also considered a deterrent once upon a time.
The rules state that unsportsmanlike conduct will be called if players commit the following in the direction of an opponent:
“These acts include but are not limited to: sack dances; home run swing; incredible hulk; spiking the ball; throwing or shoving the ball; pointing; pointing the ball; verbal taunting; military salute; standing over an opponent (prolonged and with provocation); or dancing.”
Let’s put our broad brushes away. Not all celebrations are created equally, and they deserve different punishments.
Spinning the football: no penalty
Spinning the football poorly so that it spins on its side and not on the nose: -15 yards
Post-sack HR swing (tied or with the lead): no penalty
Post-sack HR swing (behind by fewer than 7 points): -5 yards
Post-sack HR swing (behind by 7+ points): -15 yards
First down signal (tied or with the lead): -5 yards
First down signal (behind by fewer than 7 points): -15 yards
First down signal (behind by 7+ points): automatic 3rd-and-20 from original line of scrimmage — the first down signal thing is sooooo tired
Pointing the ball at someone: 15 yards — it’s pretty easy to see how this could be annoying
Any dance that Deion Sanders made famous: -15 yards — you aren’t Deion, just stop it
Standing over a player and pointing at him: -15 yards
Clapping in an opponent’s face (the Richard Sherman): -20 yards
Military salute, incredible hulk: no penalty — What’s the big deal here?
Somersaulting into the end zone (tied or with the lead): no penalty
Somersaulting into the end zone (behind by fewer than 7 points): -5 yards
Somersaulting into the end zone (behind by 7+ points): -15 yards
What Randy Moss did here: no penalty (automatic 2-point conversion if Joe Buck is in the booth)
What Golden Tate did against the Rams: scoring team kicks off from the 1-yard line
Tebowing: automatic disqualification