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The Taunting Rule: Don't Worry, We'll Know It When We See It ;-)

[UPDATE -- As Will graciously points out in the comments below, my hypotheticals wouldn't trigger application of the new rule because they'd be dead ball fouls and the new rule potentially taking points off the board only applies to live ball fouls, meaning stuff that happens while the play is still in progress. But really, the principle still applies on this side of the goal line. Plus, does it make anyone feel better that an SEC official used as an example what would obviously be a dead ball foul to persuade us not to worry about application of a new rule that applies only to live ball situations? "If it's clearly obvious, we would definitely make that erroneous call, so don't worry." ;-) ]

John Adams explores the potential doomsday scenario for 2011's new taunting rule that can steal points and happy juice from millions of fans due to a teenage athlete temporarily becoming over-excited by having accomplished some miraculous feat while being cheered on by said millions of fans. Worry not, says SEC official John Wright:

"If somebody turns a flip or flips a bird at somebody, a team should be penalized," he said. "But if somebody does something borderline, we will not call it. Everybody in the stadium will know (that it was an unsportsmanlike act) if we call it. "The way we have been told (by the SEC), these things have to jump out at you. If a guy stands over somebody and beats his chest, we know that’s a foul."

I've heard, but haven't confirmed, that many officials are tie-choked lawyers during the week, but that comment doesn't sound like it's coming from a member of the bar. No, an attorney would know that it's easy enough to promulgate in black and white but that the gray develops slowly over years and even decades in the case law as robed judges take to their inked swords to interpret and refine by continuous clarification the definition of the black and the white.

What if Justin Hunter does the loco after scoring a touchdown? What if he does it while making eye contact with the defender he just beat? What if it just looks like he's looking at the defender he just beat but he's actually staring past him to Tyler Bray back at the line of scrimmage, who's also doing the loco? (Who hasn't done this: Hey, hi. Do I know you? Oh, you're waving to someone else behind me. My head suddenly itches.)


What if the guy is tackled in the end zone, stands up and beats his chest . . . because, oh no, it's a bee! I hate bees! There's a bee on me! Afraid of bees! (Looks down at the defender for assistance, because we may be enemies on the greensward, but we are united against the Horde of the Hive.) Flag, and to add injury to insult, a trip to the ER to reduce the swelling.

What if Tauren Poole, upon crossing the goal line to win the game, suddenly develops coprolalia Tourette's or the Jumping Frenchmen of Maine? Our media guide will need a new symbol to denote win/loss records altered by successful ADA lawsuits.

A salute? Okay. A salute to the defender? Probably not okay. A salute to the fans of the opposing team? Umm . . . are the defenders due any make up calls?

Skipping through the end zone? Eh, okay. Skipping through the end zone while improvising a limerick about Les Miles' supposed mother? What if you were smiling and winking while limericking?

Officials may defer their anxiety about the new rule this summer by deceiving themselves into thinking that they're only going to throw a flag for taunting if it's obvious and that if it's borderline, they won't. The problem with that approach, though, is that even the border separating black from gray is shades of dark gray progressively indistinguishable from black.