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Zemek: The Brad Wing LSU Celebration Nonsense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 10, 2011


Week 6 Thoughts: Zemek on the LSU celebration penalty

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Week 6 Thoughts, Oct. 10 

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- Week 5

- Mitchell: Georgia. All Schedule, No Substance
- Harrison: The Sleeping Big Ten In Realignment 
- Sallee: Time For The Frazier Era At Auburn
- Johnson: Is Stanford Out Of The Title Hunt?
- Zemek: The Brad Wing LSU Celebration Nonsense
- Cirminiello: The Rebounding Old Coaches   

By Matt Zemek


People, please, have we all gone mad?

Whatever happened to common sense?

The rule might be the rule, but seriously, the world needs to take a step back to truly grasp the ridiculous “celebration” penalty assessed against LSU punter Brad Wing in the win over Florida.

By rule, by law, one could make the case that officials followed proper procedures and did what Master Rulebook declared they should do. Yet, according to any basic tenet of common sense, the penalty was absolutely ridiculous.

There’s an important distinction to be made on this issue: There should be a rule prohibiting inappropriate or excessive celebrations. Collegiate athletes should have fun, but not at the expense of their opponents. They should be able to show emotion, but not when said display of emotion sends the equivalent of an F-bomb to the player that was just outclassed in the process of scoring a game-deciding or statement-making touchdown.

Why does this have to be so difficult, and why can’t grown men – officials who are generally over 50 years old, with decades of life experience as husbands and fathers – not make the simplest, most elementary distinctions between “a kid having well-deserved fun” and “unsportsmanlike conduct”? Can someone in the officiating community or the college football rules committee offer an adult answer to this question and publicly present it to coaches and players?

Here’s what Wing did: He was about to score a touchdown on network television, and he found himself in the midst of a spectacularly successful play, all alone and immersed in what amounted to a regal procession.

What kid – from Australia (as Wing is) or anywhere else – hasn’t dreamed of raising one’s arms above one’s head once the notion of a career in football became realistic?

Once a player straps on the pads, the dream of marching into the end zone and raising the football becomes implanted in the brain. Fat-guy touchdowns, punter touchdowns, defensive touchdowns – these touchdowns can be scored alongside “traditional” touchdowns registered by running backs, receivers and quarterbacks. Putting one’s arms above one’s head – or even to the side of one’s body, as was the case with Wing – doesn’t even BEGIN to pass the sniff test as an act of truly UNSPORTSMANLIKE conduct. It’s not even a debate… not in a logical world.

Do a Deion Sanders or Merton Hanks dance before the goal line? Sure. Untoward and over-the-top showmanship are unsportsmanlike displays. Point a finger or stare down an opponent? Sure. Any overtly personal gesture to an opponent is unsportsmanlike in the extreme. Throat-slashing gestures? They could be met with double-unsportsmanlike conduct penalties worth 30 yards, and no one would have a place to raise a stern objection. Gestures laden with violent meanings could warrant ejections, given their potent symbolism.

Wing did nothing which would sink to the level of unsportsmanlike conduct. The gesture wasn’t directed toward a Florida player. It wasn’t laden with nastiness or edge. There was no message sent to the opposing team, no haughty expression of competitive arrogance. This is not hard to discern.

It wasn’t hard to discern here, and it wasn’t hard to discern when Navy’s Kriss Proctor scored a go-ahead touchdown - in OVERTIME! - against Air Force the previous week. Proctor didn’t make any wildly outlandish gesture to any opposing player. A little trash talking was as far as he went, and trash talking will be a part of high-testosterone athletics as long as human beings play sports, in front of or away from cameras.

There should be a rule against excessive celebration. Know what that rule is? Unsportsmanlike conduct, the penalty that’s part of the college football rulebook. If an opponent gets taunted or shown up, by all means throw the flag. There’s just one simple problem: Wing, like Proctor, didn’t taunt or show up anyone. Maybe one of these years, officials can make the simple distinction between an appropriate and inappropriate celebration.

Let’s just hope that the LSU-Alabama game isn’t decided by a similarly stupid decision.

- Mitchell: Georgia. All Schedule, No Substance
- Harrison: The Sleeping Big Ten In Realignment 
- Sallee: Time For The Frazier Era At Auburn
- Johnson: Is Stanford Out Of The Title Hunt?
- Zemek: The Brad Wing LSU Celebration Nonsense
- Cirminiello: The Rebounding Old Coaches