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Why the NFL’s Celebration Rules Are a Joke

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Jonathan Bales

NFL V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson recently confirmed that Jason Witten/Marc Colombo touchdown celebration that resulted in a 15-yard penalty for Dallas on Sunday was indeed “excessive celebration.”  Why?  Not because Witten handed the ball to Colombo for him to spike, but because Colombo fell to the ground.

Said Johnson, “We can’t judge intent.  It would have been avoided had Colombo stayed on his feet.  If I had been on the field I would have flagged it as well.”

Can’t judge intent?  Really?  Well how about the intentional grounding rule?  Referees must determine whether a quarterback intended to rid himself of the ball simply to avoid a sack.  In that way, they make “common sense” calls about the game.  So why should the celebration rule be any different?

Further, the entire rule is filled with hypocrisy.  When a player accidentally falls to the ground, he gets penalized.  But if a player purposely goes to the ground, but thanks his god of choice (because clearly God would have nothing better to do but to make sure Player X does well in a football game–at the expense of Player Y, I might add), then he does not get penalized.

Are you kidding me?  How about a little separation of church and state on the football field?  So to all Dallas Cowboys players. . .the next time you find yourself celebrating and a teammate accidentally bumps you to the ground, simply point to the heavens.

No need to actually thank your personal god. . .the refs are clearly incapable of judging intent.

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12 Responses to Why the NFL’s Celebration Rules Are a Joke

  1. john coleman says:

    All kinds of rules are indeed ridiculous. Pass interference and the chuck it deep mentality is one of my favorites. Those plays have about a 75% chance of completion or penalty. The college rule is better. That rule also has fathered the back shoulder throw because it is a completion or a penalty. As far as Sunday goes, Columbo clearly lost his balance. The penalty that followed completely misses the intent of the rule. Just tell them to hand the ball to the official and make it a penalty otherwise.

  2. OmarJ says:

    super agree!!! what’s the matter with the no fun league? and this has been arising since the coming of the pinnacle of hypocrisy: Roger Goodell

  3. starred4life says:

    This is b.s. anyway. Players get knocked to the ground all the time after touch downs when other players mob them and jump on their backs (for no penalty).

  4. Jonny Danger says:

    I think we have enough separation of church and state as it is in this country. I understand where you were going with that example but I can’t even say 1550 BC in my History class without them telling me to keep religion out of the class. The proper term is now BCE “before the common era”. Sad.

  5. We all seem to be in agreement that the notion of penalizing a player for falling down is ludicrous. Jonny–the term may have been poor, but I still think it is wrong that a player can go to the ground to pray, but not to celebrate with his teammates (or for any other reason). Actually, I don’t see a problem at all with praying after a TD–to each his own–but if you are going to penalize going to the ground, you can’t NOT do it because of prayer, IMO.

  6. shine says:

    There ARE some qualifications about intentional grounding. C’mon. The refs aren’t expected to read the quarterback’s mind.

    And we have these stupid celebration rules BECAUSE the players acted like such jerks in the past. There’s a reason that the penalty is for delay of game. I agree that things are a little out of hand, but they wouldn’t be that way if they players could be reasonably expected to control themselves. Since they can’t, we now have to have 37 rules about what does and does not constitute “excessive” celebration. Personally, I don’t need the game to take an extra half hour, so I can watch players stroke their egos.

  7. Shine..I don’t think the majority of players should be penalized due to the outlandish acts of a handful of them.

  8. Jonny Danger says:

    to quote you: “It is ridiculous to me that Peterson didn’t get flagged for going to the ground after his touchdown. He pointed up to the sky, so the refs looked past it as “prayer.” I talked about why prayer is a poor excuse to avoid a penalty earlier, and I know I will have opposition to this, but it is insane. What if a particular religion’s form of prayer calls for a player to expose his bare ass to the fans? That okay too, NFL? I mean after all, he is doing it in the name of God. Again, my beef is that players cannot go to the ground in general, not with prayer. But if a player can’t do it while celebrating with his teammates, how is it fair to let him do it for what is usually a “prayer” only by name, and more often simply another form of celebration?”— I agree with you Jonathan it is quite ridiculous, as long as these men are not celebrating for a very long time or doing something overly vulgar let them celebrate and be a team however they want. Its good to see these guys get excited when there teammates score it brings enjoyment to the game and gets them pumped for the next phase. To simply say they cant fall to the ground unless they point to the sky and we assume they are pointing to God or their god of choice or their dead Grandma or whomever it ma be is unfair. Any form of celebration should be acceptable within reason, obviously if they are flipping the bird at the opposing team or fans or grabbing their lower region then yes flag their ass, but getting penalized for showing off the UT symbol or jumping over a guy is just ridiculous.

  9. Jonny Danger says:

    My disagreement was just the separation of church and state in the NFL. I know what you were trying to say and I agree with you there. I believe it is good to have these men show their faith when they score or do something impressive. However for the refs to just assume they are doing that because they point to the sky, kneel down whatever it may be or for them to only allow a celebration if they think they are doing something religious is unfair to the others who are just playing the game and are spending maybe 20 secs at the most screaming, laughing and acting crazy with their team for helping them get closer to a win.

  10. I agree with you totally Jonny. I think we both believe the intent of the rule has been overridden by the letter of the rule. The NFL intended to stop the outrageous celebrations by Ochocinco and others, but instead they are penalizing entire teams and determining outcomes of games based on players falling.

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