Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NFL VP OF OPERATIONS MERTON HANKS HAS YET TO WEIGH IN:  The No Fun League is considering increasing the penalties for taunting, potentially taking away touchdowns from overly celebratory teams.  Goodness, I wrote this over nine years ago here:
I am a fan of taunting, preening, excessive celebration and all sorts of exuberant behavior on the gridiron, and not just because its foremost practitioner currently suits up for the Iggles.  
Sports are supposed to be fun. They connect us to our childhood. So let athletes show their joy -- whether via strutting, Sharpies or group celebration -- and if the other team gets pissed off, great: they've just got to do better on the field next time.

added: This Week in Taunting: DRC vs. Washington; Golden Tate v. Rams.


  1. Mr. Cosmo3:41 PM

    I wonder if your perception has changed since then. Nine years ago, few of us had children old enough to be involved in team sports. Do you really want your child/children taunting someone on the playing field? Does that make it more fun for them? Do you want them to be the tauntee? If you say that it's different for kids versus professionals, why? And at what point does it become acceptable?

    But regarding the NFL specifically, it seems to have lost the distinction between jubilant celebration and taunting. Celebrating by yourself or with your teammates should (almost) never be considered improper. Denigrating your opponent should be. Eliminate "excessive celebration" as a penalty, but keep "taunting."

  2. Adam B.3:46 PM

    Not until college, and when it's teams of equal strength. Ohio State doesn't get to taunt Ohio U, but it can taunt Michigan. Maybe not Penn State. But the idea is you can taunt someone who's supposed to be as good as you whom you manage to have bested, but not someone who will not have the opportunity to taunt back.

    I want group celebrations back.

  3. Adam C.3:50 PM

    Agree with Mr. Cosmo. I didn't see the play referenced by the link, but as described, it seems to me that it falls firmly in the realm of taunting and truly unsporting conduct as opposed to excessive celebration, and rightfully should have been penalized. The logic applied in the college game to that particular situation seems right to me -- if the taunting occurs before the TD, treat it as if the play stopped at the moment of the taunting and enforce the penalty from there.

  4. Adam C.3:52 PM

    Why can't your "taunting of equals" wait until the interviews after the game, though?

  5. Adam B.3:59 PM

    I've added the videos from this week to the post. Why is there a need to punish this at all?

  6. Adam C.4:13 PM

    I wouldn't call the DRC pick-six taunting at all, and I wouldn't punish it (and it looked like no flag was thrown). He put his finger up in the air when he saw he had a clear path to the TD - that's a pretty tame celebration, nothing more. Tate, by contrast, was rubbing it in to a defender who was nowhere near him, after the guy who was directly defending him fell down trying his damnedest to make a play on the ball (the only reason Tate was able to get to the end zone untouched). If the logic is that it's OK to taunt someone you've managed to best, then he was taunting the wrong dude.
    Here's the other thing: when you taunt like that, you put a target on your own back and possibly the backs of your teammates for reprisals. And in the NFL, reprisals can often be disproportionate in force (we've all heard what happens underneath a big pileup). Why risk it?

  7. Fred App4:14 PM

    I think if you take away the penalties for taunting, then you also would have to take away the personal foul penalty when the opponent takes exception and knocks the taunter on his ass. Taunt if you want, but be prepared to accept the consequences.

  8. Adam B.4:30 PM

    You didn't think DRC's high-stepping was a bit much? Yes, Tate's opened himself up to reprisals. I see nothing wrong with that. We don't punish baseball players for showboating after a home run; they just run the risk of getting plunked.

  9. Governor Squid4:32 PM

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'd fail to see a "late hit out of bounds" if such a thing happened. Of course, that's why they don't give me a stripey shirt.

  10. Adam C.4:47 PM

    No, not really. Again, that's exuberance and celebration, not taunting. It's Billy White Shoes Johnson, not Dick Van Dickishness. I take your point on the Hallowed Code of Baseball, but the HCB also says that you aim that next pitch where it isn't likely to do lasting damage (and that you go after the showboating perpetrator and not his teammate). Football reprisals don't follow the same code.

  11. Adam B.5:08 PM

    I think given increased sensitivity as to CTEs, football very much could adopt a "safe" code for retaliatory violence.

  12. Adam B.5:10 PM

    And, by the way, if you really wanted to clean up football, in addition to the yardage penalty start removing a player for [x] plays after all deliberate violent plays. Yes, a Penalty Box for football.

  13. The Pathetic Earthling5:17 PM

    There need to be some limits, I think -- keep to the end zone and I don't much care, but it can begin to cause some problems:

  14. Adam C.5:26 PM

    Blows to the head are the least likely retaliation, I'd imagine -- I'm thinking more about knee-destroying low blocks and in-pile nutsack violations.

  15. Adam B.6:13 PM

    A low block is itself a penalty.

  16. Adam C.6:48 PM

    Some but not all of them. Cut blocks remain legal.

  17. isaac_spaceman9:52 PM

    The NFL feels like it has to do something about the taunting for two closely related reasons. First, it is run essentially by and for a small group comprised of (a) super-wealthy mostly old men (the owners); and (b) wealthy-but-less-so mostly old-but-less-so men who have spent their entire lives in the game (GMs and league officials) who collectively think that football should be played exactly the way that it was played in 1960 except modified to avoid lawsuits. Second, those men view their most important consumers as TV network executives, corporate executives (i.e., advertisers and marketing partners), and politicians (who need to be counted on to stay out of the regulation of the game and to support taxpayer-funded stadia), all of whom the NFL owners and execs quite reasonably believe share their tradition-laden, risk-averse view of the game.

    I suspect that there is no consensus among casual fans about whether taunting is a sign of societal decay or just boys being boys. But it's not irrational for the NFL to think that nobody will be driven away from the NFL by a rule against taunting (except maybe a few hypothetical fans who have to watch their team give up a TD to a taunting penalty), while some of the NFL's most important partners might be driven away, or at least driven to do things harmful to the NFL if taunting gets out of control. So anti-taunting rules are here to stay, and if certain classless (because that's what they teach at Notre Dame) persons who play for my beloved Seahawks don't behave themselves, stricter rules are a foregone conclusion.

    Personally, I agree with Adam. The current anti-taunting rules are an annoyance, because they allow something that has nothing to do with competitive advantage affect the outcome of the game. But stricter rules would be utterly insane. The rule Adam is talking about could take seven points off the board plus result in a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the penalty (so, e.g., if the taunting began at the 15-yard line, it would be a 30-yard penalty). That would make it by far the most serious penalty that can be assessed in a football game, even though the taunting doesn't affect the play at all. Even if you hate taunting, do you think it is several times worse than fighting, late-hitting, high-lowing, clipping, launching at a player's head, spearing, stomping on a person on the ground, or twisting the face mask all the way around a player's head (all of which I've seen)?

  18. mikeski10:17 AM

    Kornheiser and Wilbon were talking about this on yesterday's show. Tony's take was that you don't take points of the board, but make the penalty (he suggested something like making the taunter's team kick off from the 5) such that the taunter's teammates will self-enforce against future taunts.

  19. Adam C.10:35 AM

    Of course the conduct Isaac lists is not worse, either objectively or subjectively. But I don't agree with Isaac's premise that the penalty is worse. If the team in possession were to get flagged for a personal foul or unnecessary roughness committed during a TD play, wouldn't you likewise see the points taken off the board and the penalty enforced from the spot of the foul? Even when the infraction is away from the ball and doesn't affect the play at all? All this proposed change would do is create a new distinction for the team in possession between in-play taunting and dead-ball taunting -- which isn't penalized at all if it comes at the end of a half! -- and make the enforcement spot for those in-play taunting calls (currently the dead-ball spot) match the enforcement spot for most in-play PF calls (spot of the foul). As long as everyone's clear on what taunting is and isn't -- and the Notes to the relevant rule provide enough non-exhaustive examples to eliminate most doubt -- I see plenty of logic and little downside to the change. (That said, mikeski posted as I was writing this, and I think Kornheiser's solution as described -- or whatever the equivalent might be if they eventually ban kickoffs to try to prevent more concussive injuries -- has merit too; its possible flaw is that it's creating a new, stiff penalty instead of harmonizing the penalty to another, similar class of penalty.)

  20. isaac_spaceman12:34 PM

    The difference is that an in-play taunting foul by definition will be a penalty for conduct that did not affect the play, whereas any other in-play penalty has either the possibility of affecting the play or, to look at it another way, is subject to an irrebuttable presumption that it affects the play to eliminate the discretion that a judgment call ("did it or didn't it affect play?") would cause. Apart from defensive pass interference/uncatchable ball calls, the NFL generally avoids giving refs this discretion. So all before-the-whistle penalties are presumed to affect the play, which is a presumption that should not apply to taunting penalties. Taunting penalties logically should always be treated as dead-ball penalties (even if they occur during the play), because dead-ball penalties are the ones that are presumed not to affect the result of the play.

    Incidentally, if you accept that a taunt does not affect the result of the play, the expected value of the proposed taunting penalty at the 15-yard line on a scoring play is -3.5 points (the difference between a TD+PAT vs. the 3.5-point expected value of a first down at the 30). It would go down a little bit if the penalty were called closer to the end zone and would go up a lot if it were called farther from the end zone. Tate started taunting at, what, the 30? The expected value of that flag would be about 4.5 points. By contrast, the expected value of any other personal foul that doesn't affect the play (i.e., a dead-ball PF) is usually about 1 point at most points on the field, though it increases a bit if the penalty is assessed near the opponent's end zone and the curve goes weird near the own end zone because of the half-the-distance placement. So under the new rules, a taunting penalty near the end of a scoring play would be more than three times as costly to the team as punching somebody in the face. This does not make sense.

  21. Benner1:24 PM

    I'd rethink arguments based on T.O. playing for the Eagles.

  22. Watts2:38 PM

    I'm ready for the NFL to do something like hockey with a time/play penalty. Sure, go ahead and taunt, but if you're an offensive player, you're out for the entire next offensive possession of your team.