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Quick Inside Slant: Week 12

Impressions of the 2012 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

So you’re telling me that even though their was nothing at all malicious about Mike Smith challenging a call that cannot be challenged it was unsportsmanlike conduct? I completely understand some sort of penalty for not knowing the rules but a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conducts? Isn’t that what guys get for fighting with people? How is those on the same level?

Picture this. You invite your friends over for dinner and dessert. Maybe some drinks. I don’t know you that well. You ask everyone to bring something if they want to but to not feel obligated. Because you’re a damn cool host. When it’s time for dessert, you break out your chocolate marble cheesecake from that expensive place in Georgetown that you go to all the time. Then Tony takes the same cheesecake out of his bag. He got it just in case you didn’t. What you should do is say thanks for the extra cheesecake, but we don’t need it, Tony. Keep it for another party. But what the NFL would do is take both cheesecakes and throw them in the toilet. Then they would publicly insult you and make you go sit at a table 15 yards away.

This is what happened to Mike Smith in the third quarter of the Cardinals/ Falcons game on Sunday. During a play in which Atlanta fumbled the ball which was controversially and awesomely recovered by the Cardinals, the Atlanta coach threw his challenge flag. Because all turnovers and scores are now automatically reviewed, the play was not flaggable and because he threw a red flag on a non-flaggable play, he was slapped with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. This is a new rule this year that even I had no idea about. I wrote a few weeks back that I thought throwing red flags on non-flaggable plays should result in a delay of game penalty, so I can appreciate that coaches are finally being held accountable for their extraneous flag-throwing. But 15 yards seems a little steep. Five would be enough. Especially because they all knew what they were doing was wrong anyway and they just wanted some time to complain about it.

But what BLEW MY FREAKIN MIND is that not only did the Falcons get a 15-yard penalty, but then THE PLAY WASN’T EVEN REVIEWED. Really? That’s a Sam Kinison-level overreaction, NFL. So Mike Smith’s red flag counteracted the review that was already supposed to take place? Are you seriously that pissed off that a coach flagged an unflaggable play? Because you lived with it for the last 14 years without even my five-yard penalty. Now he doesn’t even get the play challenged? I’m actually a little annoyed at my previous dessert analogy because it made me hungry and it doesn’t do the enormity of the ridiculousness of this new rule justice. It’s more like me offering to buy you a car, but then when you offer to pay for half of it, I say “Fine, Mr. Stupid Face! Now you don’t get a car!” and take your money. And then make you stand 15 yards away from me.

I was convinced Trey Wingo and the talking heads got this wrong and I was being misreported to again. But Mike Pereira tweeted that “If the challenge flag is thrown before the replay official initiates the review then the play is not reviewable.” So if you piss off the NFL by asking them to do something they were going to do anyway, it isn’t worth getting it right anymore. That’s some hubris, dudes. Get over yourselves.

Head Like a Hole

I had a boss once that asked me to get him a rock. And so I did. I showed it to him proudly.

“No, that’s not going to work. Bring me another rock.”

And so I went out and found him a completely different kind of rock, shiny and rounder.

“No, not that one either. Bring me another one.”

This continued for over five hours and more than 140 rocks.

“Hey boss, is there any kind of specific rock or even some qualities you’re looking for in a rock?”

“No, not that I can say. But I’ll let you know when I’m happy with the rock.”

This is the NFL’s message to players regarding helmet-to-helmet contact.

Ed Reed was suspended earlier this week for an egregious helmet-to-helmet hit on Emmanuel Sanders during last Sunday’s game. He was then unsuspended by a league arbitrator, proving that the NFL is not only soft with its new contact rules, but also the enforcement of them. I don’t envy the position the NFL is in. They have over 4,000 former players involved in a series of lawsuits against the league for the lack of monitoring player safety. They need to do something to improve player safety.

Sorry, I mistyped. That should have read “They need to do something to appear to improve player safety.”

This is all about appearances, as evident by the fact that they can’t figure it out and don’t appear to be trying too hard. And I really don’t know how that’s possible in a league where people are paid big money to run as hard as they can at each other and hit each other in the head. I had a form that all intramural participants had to sign that said that there was a chance of injury and/or death. Everybody signed it and we allegedly, according to lawyers, weren’t liable. Maybe I should fax that over to the NFL.

I’m all for player safety, but if you’re going to take a shot at it, take a shot. Don’t just fine or suspend random players for hits that look exactly like other legal hits, but for the wide received ducking at the last second. As I’ve said before, soccer figured out that if a guy ducks into somebody’s foot, it’s his fault. Put some accountability on the wide out. If your head is below shoulder level, there’s a chance you’re going to be hit in the head. Sorry. Now please sign this UMBC intramural form, Mr. Fitzgerald.

And one point that I don’t feel like is ever brought up is that the head happens to be at one end of the body. If you’re moving in a forward direction, how the hell do you not lead with your head? At the other end of the body are my feet and I seriously doubt that leading with my feet is going to go over too well in the league office.

It’s a violent game and if the league is going to feel better about doling out massive fines and suspensions only to have them rescinded, well then you’re just wasting everybody’s time. You want to really try to make the league safer? Fine people for leaving their feet like the NHL does. At least that’s easier to legislate. Or take the facemasks off the helmets. A lot more broken noses and ugly toothless linebackers, but fewer concussions. Or – I don’t know – outlaw cut blocking. Oh, but then teams wouldn’t be able to run the ball. I guess linemen don’t matter as much because they don’t sell as many jerseys as Emmanuel Sanders.

Or just keep pretending until you start to believe it yourselves.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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