06 September 2008

A horrible call

An entertaining day in college football today. There were upsets, several near upsets, and then there was one of the worst endings to a game I've ever seen. Washington, a young team with a fair bit of talent who nonetheless are not expected to achieve much this year, were hosting BYU, one of the trendy picks to be a "BCS-buster" (a non-BCS team that secures a spot in one of the major bowl games, a la Hawaii last year and Boise St. the year before). With :02 left on the clock in the fourth quarter and down by 7, Washington's young QB ran the ball into the end zone for a touchdown. Elated, he threw the ball into the air and embraced his teammates. Now, I've seen the video clip several times now, and I've yet to see anything excessive in his celebration. Every commentator and analyst for all of the games I've watched this afternoon said the same after that clip was shown: nothing wrong with his celebration. Nonetheless, a flag was thrown for excessive celebration, causing a 15-yard penalty assessed on the PAT. The kick (which was attempted from the 17 yd. line rather than the 2, due to the penalty) was blocked, and BYU won 28-27. After the game, the ref had this to say:

"After scoring the touchdown, the player threw the ball into the air and we are required, by rule, to assess a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty," Pac-10 referee Larry Farina said in a statement give to Washington officials. "It is a celebration rule that we are required to call. It was not a judgment call."
Reading between the lines, it sound's like the refs didn't want to call this one, but felt compelled by the rules. If that's true (and I gotta say, refs let celebrations go at the end of the game all the time; I'm not sure why it was called this time), then this is a rule that BADLY needs to be rethought. To expect a kid not to be exuberant in a situation like that is ridiculous. Again, I've seen the video several times. He wasn't taunting anyone, he wasn't being lewd or offensive, and he didn't throw the ball at anyone; he was just jumping up and down. These kids are amature athletes, they're not pros. Most of them are playing simply for the love of the game, and sadly today they were punished for it.

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