There is a flag on the play . . .

From the Pressbox: Opinion and Insight

A profusion of penalty flags has millions of NFL fans seeing red.

When in doubt I turn to Webster. Merriam-Webster, that is.

However, on occasion, it can be fun to try and create my own word or term or phrase to suit a particular need. Thus: anticipointment.

Anticipointment is the reaction of football fans as they await, with a negative overtone, learning if a penalty flag has been thrown on any given play.  Such a reaction can occur at any time, but is most common on a play — most especially on special teams — which results in a gain of more than 10 yards.

The trepidation can also be inflicted upon the fan/viewer any time the quarterback receives any kind of physical contact from a defensive player, regardless of severity. Observers also typically find themselves experiencing the reaction on approximately one-third of pass plays.

The upshot is that the flurry of flags, especially in the NFL, is beginning to ruin the viewing experience of what remains, by an enormous margin, the most popular sport in the country and easily the sport with the highest television ratings.

Fans are finding themselves almost automatically looking to the corner of the screen to see if a yellow bar or other indicator is signalling the dreaded “flag on the play” scenario.

Two weeks ago the Detroit Lions were absolutely robbed of a quite realistic chance at victory in Green Bay by a series of clearly ridiculous missed calls in which a flag was thrown.

There have been agonizing moments of blown non-calls in recent years, the unflagged mauling of a New Orleans receiver by an LA defensive back in the playoffs a seminal moment. But most often the frustration is not the uncalled play, but rather the over-called play. Officials are clearly more and more inclined to toss the hanky in moments of doubt instead of keeping the yellow Rag of Doom tucked in their pocket.

The best move might be to swallow the pill and take replay/review on penalties out of the game. It has become patently obvious to tens of millions of NFL viewers that “the league office” those mysterious “officials in New York” are not going to reverse a call — either way — made on the field. A secret directive to act in support of the call on the field must have been delivered.

The Observant Reader could probably research and discover that there are some officiating crews in the NFL which throw far more flags than others. Why? Face time? What are they seeing that their fellows, on average, do not?

The concern for player safety is changing the game as well and is seen by a sizable portion of the fan base as an overreaction. Even some quarterbacks have come forward and said it has become a little ridiculous.

I am not calling for the allowance of outright assault, as used to be the case, but to ask a 330-pound man moving at his full speed to stop on a dime or somehow avoid “excessive” contact with a quarterback defies sensibilities.

When a defender spears a player, kick him out. And hold the same standard for ball carriers, who put their heads down and bull forward in a what is the same move, only by the offense.

Former players will tell you that holding can be called on most plays, that defensive backs interfere or hold regularly, that receivers get away with pick plays and push-offs all the time. Maybe it is time to toss the flag on the most obvious instances and not on what it appears now happens, that flags are thrown on what the official “thinks he sees” as in the two hands-to-the-face errors made against Detroit in the game mentioned above.

If there is a penalty, call it. But I find it hard to believe there has been a sudden surge in violations. Enough with the yellow blizzard — the anticipointment is taking away the fun of the game, and that, in the long term, is a very bad thing.

Crumbs to the start of the NBA season. I was hoping it would not begin until, oh, April. The game has become a clear-out, one-on-one game. That is, when it is not someone chucking up 3-pointers from 30 feet. In my opinion the 3pt shot is the worst thing to ever happen to basketball, fundamentally changing the game. Remember when Kareem, Robert, Moses, Daryl, Artis, Tree, Patrick and, later, Shaq, were the focal point of the game? True centers don’t exist anymore, and even down to the high school level we see the tallest players on the floor thinking they are Dirk and stepping outside instead of playing under the glass and dominating the game with deadly back-to-the-basket power moves. The NBoringA is souring my love for a sport I played more pick-up games than any other as a kid. Shame.

Cookies to the Astros and Nationals making the World Series, even if televisions by the millions are tuning out. Anything keeping New York, Boston and Los Angeles (to say nothing of hated StL) out of the series is fine by me. Maybe the old Expos franchise can finally win the trophy they were ill-fated to miss in 1981.

Cookies also to bthe Perry Metro Youth Football team, which completed their season with almost two dozen third and fourth graders playing ball. This is the kind of commitment it will take to begin changing the fortunes of Perry football higher up the ladder. Good job, fellas!


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