For once, the NFL’s owners have a point. At least one of them does.
New York Giants’ owner John Mara made clear this week that the league and its law officers, also known as the zebras or officials, have made taunting a point of emphasis, which is to say they want not only to take the head out of the game but also the lip out of it.
There have been penalties on the books for years against taunting, but they have been enforced about as often as offensive pass interference on a high-caliber NFL wide receiver. What has resulted is what always happens when the law falls down on its duty: Things get stupid.
Mara made clear that is going to change this season, and when asked why he had a good explanation, which, coming from an NFL owner, is also as rare as a pass interference call against a high-caliber NFL wide receiver.
“That’s something we discuss every year in the competition committee,” Mara said. “We get kind of sick and tired of the talking that goes on from time to time on the field. We tried to balance the sportsmanship with allowing the players to have fun, and there’s always a fine line there. But none of us like to see that.
“It’s just a question of whether you can have rules that can be enforced without taking the fun out of the game, too, but nobody wants to see a player taunting another player. I know, I certainly don’t. I think the rest of the members of the competition committee feel the same way, too.”
Several hours later, after the politically correct faction of the NFL thought those comments over, the Giants amended Mara’s words, claiming he’d actually said “sick and tired of the taunting” not the "talking" because we wouldn’t want to be infringing on anyone’s right to use free speech to make a fool of himself now, would we?
Many will likely criticize Mara, claiming the 66-year-old Giants’ owner is an old fogey who is behind the times and no longer hangs with the cool kids. He may be, and he may not. But he has a good point in this case. When did getting into someone’s face, or even into his ear, become entertainment?
Entertainment comes from sweet catches, long, arcing throws, breakaway runs, hard tackles and a sack in which the zebras don’t throw 10 flags for playing too rough with Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. It doesn’t generally come from watching guys pushing, shoving and yapping, the last being especially true because no one watching can hear what they’re saying anyway. Silent movies went out of style a long time ago, in case guys like Richard Sherman forgot.
There haven’t been many times over the years where the owners have a point, but this is one of them. We’re taught in kindergarten not to taunt others, especially those weaker than ourselves. So why, if you score a touchdown in the NFL or break up a pass or make a reception for a measly first down does a player have to rub it in the face of the man he just beat?
I’m all for fun. I love a good end-zone dance, sack dance or Bill Belichick shrug. Bring back the California Quake and the Funky Chicken. Go grab a cheerleaders’ pom-poms or some popcorn after a big play. But give me a break with the incessant yapping in each other’s faces, will ya?
If I wanted to see silly taunting I could just go down to a local schoolboard meeting when they’re trying to discuss mask mandates to protect children and listen to our citizens make fools of themselves.
So throw the flags for illegal use of the mouth a few times. If the officials do, maybe the players will go back to making plays instead of just talking about them.