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4. Ray Rice's unsportsmanlike penalty for "taunting" is a prime example of how uptight and controlling the NFL has become. Football players should not be expected to behave like corporate robots. It's a joke.
I'm about to sound like an old man yelling at a group of kids to get off my lawn, but the flag thrown on Rice on Sunday was one of the most ridiculous flags I've seen in a long time. And I would say that just as quickly if it happened to Larry Fitzgerald.
When I was a kid, Bo Jackson was one of my favorite players, not just because he was an astonishing blend of speed and power, but because I loved his six-shooter touchdown celebration. Kansas City defensive end Neil Smith and his "home run" sack dance are something I'll never forget. The thought of Deion Sanders high-stepping and tap dancing after an interception return still make me smile. The fact that Barry Sanders simply handed the ball to the referee after a score was great too, because it made him unique in his own classy, understated way. But I never once wished that the entire league behaved like Barry Sanders.
To review, in a game that was tied 27-27, Rice caught a fourth-quarter pass from Flacco and made what was essentially a video game spin move in the middle of the Arizona defense. He was eventually tackled by Cardinals rookie David Carter, who flexed his muscles at Rice when he got up off the ground. Rice, laughing at the fact that he'd just been taunted by a man he'd nearly spun in a circle, returned the gesture. That was it. And suddenly the flag came out and the Ravens were facing 2nd-and-17. They had to punt three plays later.
"I didn't curse, I didn't cuss," Rice said. "He did a 'Woo!' and I looked at our sideline and did the same. I wasn't even really paying attention to him. The refs have a job to do, and I'm never going to blame the refs in a game where we came out a winner. They have a tough job."
Rice was being diplomatic, but I won't be. It was a bogus call, especially at that juncture in the game. And if LaMarr Woodley plays next week and he sacks Joe Flacco at a crucial moment in the game, no referee should care if he pumps his fist or thumps his chest. If I wanted polite celebrations, I'd watch more golf.
October 30, 2011