New NFL guidelines call for the referee, the alpha zebra who announces penalties, to explain why flags are thrown. When public-address microphones for officials were introduced in 1975, some did this informally, referee Ben Dreith once memorably announcing, "Personal foul—he was givin' him the business down there." Later, refs throttled back to bland legalistic descriptions that sounded as if they were written by the league general counsel's office. The new explanation policy is an improvement.
But why just describe the infraction—why not act it out?
If it's chop block, one official should turn his back while another hurls himself into his knees. If it's roughing the passer, one zebra should stand still while another clobbers him. Pass interference? One shoves the other. Intentional grounding? One chases the other around the field like crazy. Late hit, holding, illegal touching—if they really saw the infractions they are calling, prove it by acting out the foul. Exception: For humanitarian reasons, "givin' him the business down there" would not be acted out.
Football, after all, is about entertainment. The officials just got a huge raise. They should become entertainers, too.
While we're at it, why not add a few new categories of penalties:
- I felt that was a bit predictable. Ten yards for running a play everyone knew was coming, unless the play works.
- Going pass-wacky. Five yards and loss of down for passing with only a yard to go.
- Insufferable conduct. Opponent awarded ball whenever man on way to scoring begins celebrating before reaching end zone.
- Excessive rodomontade. Fifteen-yard walk-off for a tackler who jumps up and wildly celebrates when his team is way behind or a receiver who theatrically makes the first-down gesture every time he catches the ball.
- Finger-pointing. Automatic ejection for any player visibly blaming a teammate for a bad play, such as a cornerback pointing at the safety after a blown coverage.
- Stat-padding. Ten yards for improving your stats to the detriment of the team, for instance, the punter who booms one through the end zone to enhance his kick yardage but allows the opponent to start from the 20.
- Stack-blowing. Fifteen yards for the coach who screams, "WHAT? WHAT?" and gestures madly when the call is obviously correct.
In other NFL news, is it me, or do the Vikings only play well in weeks when they have been relentlessly ridiculed by the media? Maybe the reason Minnesota honked last January's NFC championship game is that the sports press spent the prior week praising the team. If the Vikings are to bounce back, they've got to start urging sportswriters to attack them. Maybe they should hire someone to plant bad press. They could get the woman who used to be spokeswoman for Gary Condit!
Best of the Week. Best Drawn-Out Drive: Trailing the woeful Lions 12-7 at home with the sun setting on the stadium and on their playoff hopes, the Bucs drove 80 yards in 15 plays, all passes, for the last-second winning score. During the possession, they overcame fourth and eight, fourth and five, and third and 20. Tampa players must have motivated themselves by mentally reading what the next day's headlines would have said had they hooted to the league's only winless club.
Best College Play No. 1: New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks faked up the middle, then jogged left as if for a veer-option run, then flipped to RB Deuce McAllister as if making the option pitch; McAllister lofted a touchdown pass. The entire play appeared to happen in slo-mo, as if a Saturday no-pads walk-through.
Best College Play No. 2: Scored tied in the fourth, Dallas faced third and 11 on the Giants' 14. Erratic quasi-quarterback Quincy Carter faked a pitch right, and the left side of the line pulled right. Carter then ran left sans blocking, this naked scamper working so well he got 5 yards downfield before any New York/A defender noticed him. Dallas converted and scored the winning points on the next snap.