Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Unsportsmanlike gray matter leads to more dirty laundry

After his second touchdown Saturday night, was what Crowell did by hopping up and down on the same level as what LSU punter Brad Wing did as he neared the goalline against Florida? Wing was flagged and the touchdown was nullified under the new live ball unsportsmanlike penalty rule. Crowell was not flagged.

In my view, neither Wing nor Crowell's actions were unsportsmanlike. Certainly not to the degree of getting a touchdown taken off the board. Yet both instances were closer to flaggable offenses than what AJ Green was penalized for in 2009. Actually his endzone "celebration" was similar to what Crowell did in that they both faced the crowd after scoring. While AJ's seemed to end there with teammates mobbing him, Crowell had distanced himself enough from his blockers that it took awhile for everyone to get to where he was jumping.
While the NCAA meant to take out some perceived mean-spiritedness, it took out a part of football’s soul along with it. Is a 52-yard fake punt run against a rival not worthy of some bravado? Was Green’s late-game score not important enough to warrant a few seconds with teammates?
And if not, then where is the line? Did Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell cross it on Saturday when, after scoring his second touchdown, he hopped up and down in a corner of the end zone while facing a crowd of Tennessee fans?
It is not athletes to decide, and so you’re likely to see some very conservative touchdown celebrations because, as White said, it’s just something teams now have to face without much recourse.
“Every team was informed in the offseason of the changes, and we’ve had to deal with it,” White said. “We’re definitely a team that’s seen some unsportsmanlike conduct and celebration penalties come back and bite us like at LSU two years ago. But to me, I don’t know, it takes a little bit of the fun out of the game when you can’t feed into your emotion and you can’t get too happy about making a play. Especially with a big play like (LSU’s), there should be a little more leeway, but it’s not up to me to say.”   
And therein lies the problem. The unsportsmanlike penalty is a judgment call that can be interpreted differently by me than it is by you. Did Wing taunt the Florida players? Yes. So the referee was doing his job. But for the fans watching the game the punishment hardly fit the crime. By making it a live ball foul this season that thin line of judgment can carry with it a lot of weight.

To make matters worse, SEC officiating in particular appears to be worse than it ever has been. I know right? Like that ever seemed possible to type. But the "fumble" that never was...or may have been yet was recovered by a hamstring plus one achilles tendon is the perfect example of where SEC officiating has sunk to. Here we are a few days after the fact and no one really knows if he was simply ruled down (which replay clearly indicated he wasn't) or if the Tenn player had recovered before Herrera wraped his actual hands on the football (which replay also confirmed didn't happen).

If it was the former the refs are at best, simply incompetent. If it was the latter then they are at worst terribly biased. Which leads me back to the original discussion about the unsportsmanlike penalty. I'm left with two questions:
  1. When is the time at which this rule truly hurts Georgia? In a game they can probably handle anyway such as Vandy or New Mexico State? Or in Jacksonville where everything works against us anyway?
  2. Since it was the coaches that wanted this rule, will there be enough carnage from it this season for them to change their collective minds?


MT said...

If I recall correctly, Crowell also saluted to the crowd in the endzone.  I was a little shocked that the hankies didn't come flying out there... anything borderline in that area tends to go against us

Bernie said...

You're right. I think that was after the first TD. Something so innocuous, but like you said it usually goes against us. So, it's just a matter of time.

Teapot said...

I get your point. The biggest difference I see is that the LSU punter looked directly at the opposing team and made the jesture. IMHO, that's definately taunting. Crowell has walked that tightrope a few times this season as well. I have actually seen the coaches say "things" to him about it afterwards during the game. My hope is that it does cost us during the big games we have coming up. Crowell is an outstanding RB. But he is a freshman in the theatre of SEC football. I can understand how a teenaged kid can get all geeked up being in that kind of atmosphere. It's a fine line.