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Quick Inside Slant: Week 4

Impressions of the 2014 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

Abdullah

Let me get this out of the way for those who are looking to plant a smoking gun in the NFL’s underwear drawer. Husain Abdullah was not flagged for his religious beliefs, and honestly, he wasn’t even flagged for praying. He was flagged because the NFL – in its profound wisdom – has decided it is necessary to penalize crap that has no affect on the outcome of the game.

First of all, here are a few facts about the play, for those of you people who like to ignore stuff that doesn’t support the argument you’re trying to fabricate.

  1. Husain Abdullah slid about 5 feet with the ball before going into his praying position. He was excited to have intercepted a first-ballot hall of famer and scored a touchdown on Monday Night Football. It’s possible he wasn’t immediately thinking of praying when he first got into the end zone. And as a coach, I like that in my safeties. I’d be a little more concerned if my defensive secondary was too preoccupied with considering their post-touchdown prayer celebration to worry about dropping off the tight end in their robber coverage responsibility at the top of the quarterback’s drop. And though sliding shouldn’t be a penalty in the NFL, I’m also pretty sure it’s not a typical Muslim prayer method.
  2. There is a rule against going to the ground in celebration. You’ve probably read it somewhere by now, but here is the actual wording of the rule from the NFL rulebook: Rule 12 (Player conduct), Section 3 (Unsportsmanlike conduct), Article 1-D (Taunting) states “Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground.” That’s the relevant part. There is not anything that specifically grants religious exceptions, but there will be more on that later. And because I saw all the pix on the internet drawing the comparisons…
  3. This dumb rule was not in place when Tim Tebow was still relevant to the NFL. All those memes of the two side by side, claiming religious and/or racial inequality in the NFL conveniently leave out that fact. There may as well be a gif of Night Train Lane clotheslining a running back in there too.

Also, and this should speak volumes, but Abdullah isn’t even upset by the call. He was confused and his coach, Andy Reid, told him on the sideline that he couldn’t slide. Yes, I think we all agree it’s a stupid rule. And he probably got flagged more so for the unceremonious way the Chiefs had just publicly stripped the Patriots naked and pointed laughing at their genitals on national television. That flag needed to be thrown just to stop the beating at that point. But no, conspiracy theorists, the NFL did not flag Abdullah for being Muslim.

Why Can’t I Stop Punching Myself?

But this is of course the NFL, who can’t get out of their own damn way nowadays. They came out on Tuesday to admit that the play should not have been penalized. And here’s the exact quote, taken from an email by NFL spokesperson Michael Signora:

  • The officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play.

This is where I’m throwing my red flag. Signora is throwing the game official under the bus for throwing a flag BASED ON THE RULES WRITTEN DOWN IN THE NFL RULEBOOK. If you don’t want to have a flag thrown in that situation, don’t make it a rule that refs have to follow. They probably think it’s stupid too, but they get evaluated based on how well they follow the rulebook. I’m sure the police of Greene, New York don’t really want to arrest people for eating peanuts and walking backwards on the sidewalk during a concert, but it’s in their rule book.

In the four years I spent as a flag football official and the subsequent thirteen I spent training flag football officials, the word “mechanic” was reserved for the actual procedures used to call the game. Things like which fingers to hold up when signaling a second down (the index and pinky), where to stand during a field goal, and which camera to look into when saying the ruling on the field is confirmed. This is completely separate from knowledge and application of the rules. For that, we have – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – the rulebook.

Even if the NFL has decided to redefine a word used by everyone, including themselves in their NFL Officiating Academy Guide (Mechanics – where to stand on the field, signals, movement and coverage areas during a play), it’s just a smokescreen for public relations reasons. They sacrificed that poor cog just trying to follow a set of increasingly and unnecessarily complex rules to save themselves from admitting that their rules against end zone celebrations are increasingly and unnecessarily complex. And why would they? They once made a rule (and refused to change it midseason) that would disallow a review on a reviewable play if a red flag was thrown, allowing teams to get free touchdowns they didn’t deserve, had they found the loophole Woody Paige and I found. The NFL doesn’t think they ever need to admit fault. And when they do, they just shove Roger Goodell out to a podium to say “We need to get it right” for 47 minutes.

The Solution

I don’t expect the NFL to make another prayer rule under the other going to the ground rule to appease this situation. What I prefer they do is get rid of all those stupid rules. Here’s my solutions-oriented fix to this problem. Hire an out-of-work comedian. I haven’t seen Larry David in a while. Have him hang out at Command Central in New York where they review everything. For every end zone celebration, he has to decide whether or not it’s creative enough to merit the time it took and the offense it may have caused people. For example, if someone pretends to have a chainsaw and cuts down the goalpost, no penalty. If somebody raises the extra point net themselves, they can elect to receive the second half kick. But if anyone ever does anything as rhythmically challenged and boring as the Icky Shuffle again, they should be kicking from their own 20.

So let’s calm down a bit about the NFL being racist or anti-religion. It was an honest mistake. HOWEVER, then they had a spokesperson who doesn’t know anything about officiating release a statement saying how the officials got it wrong so they wouldn’t have to admit it was the fault of the whoever the heck decided that specific types of celebrations needed to be taken out of the game to clean up the NFL’s image. After all, the NFL is about integrity and being role models. I’m looking forward to tonight’s game when all the players will wear pink. You know, because they care so much about women’s health.

Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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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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Comments
One Response to “Quick Inside Slant: Week 4”
  1. Larry says:

    Thanks for the explanation.
    I’m voting for your Larry David solution.